4.06.2017

Chocolate Bites and Bars

 

I admit I am completely and wonderfully addicted to chocolate.  Deep dark chocolate.  I told my husband if he ever wanted to punish me, just take away my dark chocolate.  He can have my car, credit cards and money, but NOT my chocolate!  I keep a stash hidden away in a cool dark place.  

Confession time.   I ate a bag of Cadbury mini eggs in two days.  I couldn't stop myself.  The bite of that wonderful candy shell over the creamy milk chocolate is so addicting. I decided that I needed to have an Easter treat in the house that would be completely satisfying yet on the healthier side without a lot of sugar.

I opened my pantry cupboards and starting pulling out bags of nuts, coconut, and roasted cacao nibs. Always cacao nibs.  I went into my food storage room and opened large cans of freeze dried strawberries and raspberries.  Finally I opened my tea cupboard and decided that I would love the addition of rose and lavender with a sprinkle of bee pollen.  I tempered some of my hidden dark chocolate and created these lovely little bites of heaven.  To keep the chocolate bites healthier, use chocolate that is at least 72% or higher.  I love 75 - 85% personally.  E. Guittard has some great dark chocolates and a few are vegan and delish!


A dear friend gave me this vintage candy mold several years ago.  I believe it was for molding maple sugar, but works great as a chocolate mold and was the perfect size for the perfect bite.


You will need to temper your chocolate.  This is the most important and technical challenge in this recipe. If you do not temper couverture chocolate, the chocolate will crumble, it will have a white bloom streak through out and it will loose it's snap and sheen.  I have been working with chocolate for over 30 years now and it still gets the best of me every now and then.  I have found a pretty fool proof way of melting and tempering chocolate at home.  

Tempering chocolate 101

1.  Place chocolate glass or metal bowl in an oven heated to 100 degrees F.  Not one degree hotter.  Cover with aluminum foil and let the chocolate melt overnight or several hours.  

2.  When ready to use the chocolate, place bowl over barely simmering water and bring the temperature to 113 degrees.  

3.  Remove the bowl from the water and add a small amount of shaved or chopped chocolate to the warm chocolate and stir the chocolate until the temperature has lowered to 84 degrees.

4. Place the bowl back over the hot water and bring the temperature up to 86 degrees and stir for about 5 minutes holding it at that temperature.  

5.  Now you can pour the chocolate into the molds.  I know this seems like such a hassle, but worth it in the end.

6.  Cooling the chocolate is equally as important.  Chocolate cools and hardens best at an ambient room temperature of 68 degrees.  Cool weather is better for making candy.  


 Setting up a little station makes the creations easier and more organized.

You will need:

1 lb. dark chocolate, tempered.  I'm using Callebaut intense bittersweet callets
variety of raw nuts
flaked unsweetened coconut
roasted cacao nibs
freeze dried strawberries and raspberries
dried rose petals
dried lavender
bee pollen, optional

I get asked the question if chocolate chips can be used?  My answer is preferably not.  Because chocolate chips are made to hold their shape during baking.  Melting chocolate chips will leave you with a thick melted blob.  You must add coconut oil, oil or shortening to thin the chocolate chips down enough to dip or mold.  The flavor just isn't worth the effort in my opinion.

Don't let chocolate scare you.  Just be patient and always temper your chocolate before you dip or mold.  Even with strawberries or pretzels.  For a beautiful sheen and snap, temper the chocolate.  If you just don't want to mess with tempering, start by using a molding chocolate and then work your way up to a fabulous couverture.


Make sure the mold you are using is at the 68 degree room temperature for cooling.  If the mold is too cold, it will harden too quickly. This can cause cracking and white bloom.


If the temperature is cool outside, I just open a door and try to cool my kitchen to a little less than 68 degrees.




I just happened to have a few polycarbonate chocolate molds, so I made some large bars as well.


DO NOT...I repeat...DO NOT place the molds in the refrigerator.  The chocolate will harden too quickly and can cause cracking, white bloom or crumbly chocolate.  I have watched a few Youtube videos on making chocolate bars and all the them place the chocolate in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to harden.  Don't do it.  Be patient and let the cool room temperature harden the chocolate for you.


With the clear mold I can tell when it is time to remove the chocolate bars.  As you can see the different color of the chocolate against the mold.  The dark brown areas show me that the chocolate isn't ready to be released. Be patient.  Wait for it...wait for it....



Now the chocolate has released itself from the mold.  Gently tip the mold over and the chocolate will drop right out.


Forcing the chocolate out of the mold my tapping or shaking it out will cause a dull spot on the bar where it had not yet released itself.   

I have a few air bubbles, which means I should have tapped the mold with the melted chocolate in it on the counter a few times to release the air bubbles.  Oh well, at least the chocolate is shiny and tempered very well.  It has a good snap to it.



If molds are not available, drop chocolate onto waxed paper by teaspoons and arrange toppings on top the the chocolate mounds.



This was so much fun.  I loved making the different flavor combinations.  My favorite combo was strawberry, rose, pistachio and a hint of bee pollen.


A perfect bite.






Chocolate Bites and Bars

1 lb. dark chocolate, tempered
variety of raw nuts or seeds
flaked unsweetened coconut
roasted cacao nibs
freeze dried strawberries and raspberries
dried rose petals
dried lavender
bee pollen
molds or wax paper

Tempering chocolate 101

1.  Place chocolate glass or metal bowl in an oven heated to 100 degrees F.  Not one degree hotter.  Cover with aluminum foil and let the chocolate melt overnight or several hours.  

2.  When ready to use the chocolate, place bowl over barely simmering water and bring the temperature to 113 degrees.  

3.  Remove the bowl from the water and add a small amount of shaved or chopped chocolate to the warm chocolate and stir the chocolate until the temperature has lowered to 84 degrees.

4. Place the bowl back over the hot water and bring the temperature up to 86 degrees and stir for about 5 minutes holding it at that temperature.  

5.  Now you can pour the chocolate into the molds.  I know this seems like such a hassle, but worth it in the end.  Arrange with your favorite nuts, fruits, seeds, etc.

6.  Cooling the chocolate is equally as important.  Chocolate cools and hardens best at an ambient room temperature of 68 degrees.  Cool weather is better for making candy.  

Store in a cool place.  Once the chocolate is tempered, relax and enjoy making your own variations and flavors.  I can't think of any further instructions to give you.  If you have questions, just shoot me the question in the "contact me" drop down and I'll respond as soon as I can.  


3.28.2017

Quinoa Stuffed Avocados



I had hoped to post this before St. Patrick's Day, but we had a grand celebration with all of our kids and grandkids in town.  There was a party in the house.  Such a great 10 days with all the kiddos around.  Good times.

I have been anxious to make and post this recipe for quinoa stuffed avocados.  This recipe gives you the healthy fats found in avocados and protein from the quinoa.  Along with kale, red peppers and a fabulous jalapeno lime dressing made from soaked and blended cashews, this recipe is healthy from the inside out.  




As you know I married a carnivore and I prefer eating vegetarian.  He thinks the nutrition theory around kale is a conspiracy and avocados should be left on the tree.  However, he really enjoys a plate of wild rockets (arugula) with a squeeze of lemon and EVOO.  I'm afraid tell him arugula has antioxidant benefits and detoxifying power and more.   Baby steps.  Baby steps.  Someday I will let him know that I slip a bit of avocado into his smoothies and the parsley that I garnish his meals with is really curly leaf kale...or not.


This is such a simple recipe and makes a great lunch.  You will need:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped baby kale or any other kale
2 avocados
handful of pumpkin seeds (I'm using raw)


Place all of the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl.


Stir then set aside.


For the creamy jalapeno lime sauce you will need:

1 cup soaked raw cashews (soaked for at least 2-4 hours)
2-4 tablespoons cilantro
1/4 - 1/3 cup lime juice, to taste
1/2 jalapeno
1 clove garlic (not pictured, whoops)
salt to taste
water


Place the cashews, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice in a blender.  Blend until smooth while slowly drizzling in water to make a pourable, but not runny, consistency.  Start with 1/4 cup water and add from there.


Blend until very smooth and creamy.  I was eating this with a spoon it was so delicious.


Cut avocados in half and remove the pit.


Carefully remove from outer shell.  


Fill the hallow part of the avocado with the quinoa mixture.


Drizzle with cashew cream (I doused more than drizzled to be honest).  I like to serve the avocado on a bed of wild rockets (baby arugula) drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.  I love the peppery arugula combined with the stuffed avocado.  It creates the perfect bite and adds another healthy element that is full of flavor.


Here's to our health.  


Quinoa Stuffed Avocados

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped baby kale or any other kale
handful of pumpkin seeds (I'm using raw)
2 avocados

optional:  Arugula drizzled with fresh lemon juice and a splash of EVOO for plating

Jalapeno Lime Cashew Cream:
1 cup raw cashews (soaked for at least 2-4 hours)
2-4 tablespoons cilantro
1/4 - 1/3 cup lime juice, to taste
1/2 jalapeno
1 clove garlic (not pictured, whoops)
salt to taste
1/4 cup water, or more

In a small bowl, stir together quinoa, red pepper, kale, and pumpkin seeds.  Set aside.  Make the cashew cream by blending cashews, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt.  Slowly add water while blending until a creamy, smooth.  Take care not to make the cream too thin.

Cut avocados in half and remove the pit.  Fill with quinoa mixture and drizzle with cashew cream. Serve on a bed of arugula that has been dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately because you'd had for your avocados to turn brown.  Makes 2-4 servings.

Print recipe








3.08.2017

Carrot Cake Oatmeal - My Way


Today is my birthday!  I'm celebrating the fact that I'm still alive!  I'm healthy!  I can run, not as fast, but I'm still hitting the pavement 5-6 days a week.  I enjoy a few workouts at Orange Theory each week, which kicks my trash. Basically I feel like I'm 20 years old until I look in the mirror.  Yikes!  I try my hardest to eat as healthy as possible.  I pretty much make everything from scratch.  I avoid processed foods like the plague.  I eat my greens and drink them too.  

On my birthday I give myself a gift of eating whatever I want.  If I have a birthday cake, I go for Carrot Cake or Chocolate, Chocolate, double loaded with Chocolate Cake. While perusing Pinterest for a great cake idea, I noticed many pins for Carrot Cake Oatmeal recipes.  This turned on a light in my head.  Wow!  I love oatmeal and I love carrot cake.  I can totally improve this recipe.  I can create the greatest birthday breakfast ever...Carrot Cake Oatmeal...MY WAY!  


The recipe is pretty simple.  You will need:

1 cup cooked oatmeal of choice (I'm using Bob's Redmill Steel cut)
1 slice Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing (because cinnamon and oatmeal are a match made in heaven)

Place one cup cooked oatmeal mixed with cream and maple syrup in a bowl.  Top with a large slice of carrot cake.  EAT!

It's not coincidence that it's National Women's Day on March 8th.  To all of you wonderful women born on this day, GO US!   I wish you a happy birthday.  Celebrate in style because you are one fabulous woman! 



 Oh...I think I'm going to be sick....

Next week...Green Juice!







3.02.2017

Steamed Banh Mi with Braised Beef Cheeks


Steamed buns Banh Mi are over the top delicious.  I love the briny crunch of the fresh vegetables.  I really love raw beets, that why I decided to quick pickle them along with the carrots, jalapenos and spring onions.  I generally add cucumbers to to mix as well, but I used up my cukes juicing.  

Don't look at the recipe and freak because there are more than FIVE ingredients.  Please have an open mind.  This is a pretty simple recipe and will blow you away with flavor.  You won't regret it.  All of the components can be made a day in advance, which makes it a breeze to put together.


I have a recipe for Steamed Buns on the blog with step-by-step, of course.  Someday if you're feeling all gourmet, give them a try.  If not, another option would be to purchase frozen buns from an Asian market and re-heat according to the package directions OR you can just purchase some baguette and make a killer sandwich OR if you are GF or Paleo, snuggle everything inside a nice bibb lettuce leaf.




Let's start by making some quick pickled veggies.  Yes, you can make these a day ahead.  Maybe even two days.

You will need:
1 large carrot, julienne
1 large beet, julienne
2-3 jalapenos, sliced
2 spring onions
2 cups rice vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar


Dissolve 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in 2 cups rice vinegar.



Place all prepared veggies into individual jars.  Pour vinegar mixture to over veggies.


Cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to use.

Oh Snap!  That was easy.


I received my Butcher Box for February and was completely surprised to see Beef Cheeks in the box.

Whaaaaaa?  I have never, ever in my life found beef cheeks in a Utah butcher store.  EVER!  I was pretty excited and knew that I was going to make steamed buns with the cheeks.  I'll let you know right up front that I don't eat a lot of meat.  When I do, it's got to be awesome.  

You will need:

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup coconut water, water or unsalted beef broth
2 lbs. beef cheeks or beef chuck roast, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil

I realize the list looks overwhelming, but it isn't.  Most of the ingredients are going into a sauce that the beef in cooked in.  Basically you are going to measure, stir, pour, cook.  Easy peasy.



In a small bowl, stir the first 8 ingredients together.  That would be the garlic, ginger, soy, vinegar, Chinese five spice, coconut sugar, chili garlic sauce and sesame oil.  Just stir it all together.


Set aside.


Melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a pan, heavy pot or in the pan of a pressure cooker.

Add beef to the hot oil.  Brown on all sides.  Don't over crowd your beef or you will be steaming it instead of browning.


Once the beef has browned remove from pan.


Deglaze the pan with 1 cup coconut water, unsalted beef broth or just plain water.


Return the beef and coconut water to the pot your are going to cook it in.  It can be a heavy pot, crockpot or a pressure cooker.  You choose.

Pour the soy mixture over the meat.  Cover with a tight fitting lid.  Place covered pot in a 275 degree preheated oven and bake for 4-5 hours.  If using a crockpot, cook for 4 hours on high heat.  If using a pressure cooker, cook for 30 minutes then let the pressure release on it's own.


One the beef cheeks are nice and tender, remove from pot and shred with two forks.  Drain off as much fat as possible from the juices in pan.  Reserve the juices and discard the fat.

Return meat and juices back into the pot.  I like to let the meat warm in the juices until ready to serve. If using a crockpot, turn to low until ready to serve.  If using a pressure cooker, keep on warm until ready to serve.  I have kept the beef on low for as long as 4 hours.  You can also, keep warm on a stove top.  So many choices.


To serve, arrange beef in a split steamed bun.  Top with pickled veggies and a drizzle of sriracha.

DON'T FORGET THE SRIRACHA.

Enjoy.  Again and again.





Steamed Banh Mi with Braised Beef Cheeks

Pickled Vegetables:
2-3 jalapeno peppers, sliced
1 carrot, julienne
1 beet, julienne
2 spring onions, sliced
2 cups rice vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Braised Beef:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup coconut water, water or unsalted beef broth
2 lbs. beef cheeks or beef chuck roast, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil
8 1- 10 steamed buns (recipe:  Steamed Buns)  OR use bibb lettuce leaves to make lettuce wraps

optional:  Sriracha  (optional, but mandatory)

To make the pickled vegetables:
Place jalapenos, carrots, beets, and onions in separate jars.  Mix rice vinegar, salt, and sugar together until dissolved.  Poor vinegar mixture equally over prepared veggies.  Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Braised Beef Cheeks:

In a small bowl, mix together garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, Chinese 5 spice, coconut sugar, chili garlic sauce, and sesame oil. Set aside.  Heat, skillet or pan or pressure cooker, brown beef on all sides in the coconut oil.  Do not crowd the pan.  Remove beef and deglaze pan with coconut water, beef broth or water.  Return beef to pot or a crockpot.  Pour soy mixture over meat.  Cover tightly with a lid and cook beef in a 275 degree oven for 4-5 hours or until tender.  Remove beef from juices and using two forks shred the beef.  Strain off any fat that has accumulated and discard the fat. Return juices to pot. Add beef to pot and keep warm until ready to serve.

Crockpot:  If using a crockpot, cook on high heat for 4 hours.  Follow directions above.

Pressure Cooker:  Pressure on high for 30 minutes.  Follow directions above.  After beef has been shredded and fat has been removed from juices, return to pressure cooker and cook beef in juices on low pressure for another 5 minutes.  Beef can be left on low heat until ready to serve for 2-3 hours.


Notes:  


  • Frozen pre-made steamed buns may be purchased in an Asian market.  Follow directions on package for reheating.  
  • Note the option for GF or Paleo with the use of Bibb lettuce leaves.  
  • Cucumbers, radishes, or other veggies may be used also.