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Tomorrow the Room Mums from my class are throwing a farewell party for the four children who are leaving our school at the end of the year.

One of the hardest parts about working in an international school is that families come and go quite easily. Parents are relocated for work and the kids are off to new lands. Although this is exciting and allows for so many wonderful learning opportunities, it’s also a bit sad.

Where I grew up, people rarely moved. The class roster was almost identical for 13 years.I graduated high school with almost all the same people that I went to kindergarten with. 

My high school English teacher even taught my father.

Saying goodbye to children is really hard for me. I care so much for each and every child in my class, and the thought that I will probably never see them again breaks my heart.

 So, to make the farewells more bearable, we’re throwing a party.

To make the farewells more sweet, I baked cupcakes.

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Healthy Vegan Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

Slightly adapted from: Confessions of a Bake-a-Holic

Ingredients

4 cups flour

2 2/3 cups raw sugar

1 1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup apple sauce

3 cups hot water

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line or oil a muffin tin.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oil, apple sauce, hot water and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix just to combine. Add bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in the refrigerator. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
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Chocolate and amaretto go so well together.

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Rich, dark, silky chocolate and sweet, smooth amaretto.

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I adapted this cupcake recipe and this frosting recipe to achieve this flavorful but not-too-boozy recipe.

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Vegan Chocolate Amaretto Cupcakes

Makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/4 cup amaretto (plus more for dipping)

1 cup natural cane sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp pure almond extract (optional, but awesome)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. With an electric mixer, beat together the following ingredients in a large bowl: non-dairy milk, amaretto, oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
2. Now sift in the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well, until the clumps are gone.
3. Spoon the batter into prepared cupcake pan, about two-thirds full for each. Bake for about 22 minutes at 350F, or until the cupcake slowly springs back when pressed with a finger. Allow to completely cool before dipping the cupcake tops into a small bowl of amaretto and frosting.

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For a bit more boozy cupcakes, dip the cooked and cooled cupcake tops in a little bit of amaretto before frosting.

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Vegan Chocolate Amaretto Frosting

Makes enough frosting to top 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 cup vegan margarine, room temperature

1/4 cup amaretto

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup coco powder

1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

almond slivers to garnish

Method

  1. Beat the margarine using an electric mixer until fluffy.

  2. Add the sugar, cornstarch and salt then beat for 3 minutes more.

  3. Pour in the amaretto then beat for another 5 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy.

  4. Pipe or spread the frosting on to your cakes as desired.

Perfect for birthdays, picnics and BBQs.P5277181

 

I hope everyone back home has had a great Memorial Day. I spent the morning at school then went out to lunch along the Rhine with a group of my girl friends. A lovely way to spend a hot, late spring day!

Tonight I’m going to a bar called Spleen to listen to Andrew Vladeck, a singer and songwriter from New York who’s stopping in Bonn on his European tour.

Should be a good night, I’ll tell you more tomorrow!

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Tomorrow is my friend Rachel’s birthday.

Rachel comes from New Zealand and one time, a long time ago, she mentioned that she really misses pavlova.

I didn’t know what pavlova was.

My kind friend informed me that pavlova is similar to a meringue and that it is always topped with fruit and whipped cream.

Filed away but not forgotten, I knew that Rachel’s next birthday treat would be pavlova… I just had to figure out how to make it first.

Luckily, a few websites guided the way, and I was able to put my own spin on a classic, New Zealand tradition.

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Although this treat is a bit time consuming, there isn’t much hands-on labor involved.

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The ingredients are quite simple. From a few household handy food items, something great can be formed.

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As a meringue-based dessert, egg whites are the star. I used organic, free range eggs.

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Pavlova is always topped with fruit. Since strawberries are in season right now, they made the most logical choice.

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Being my mother’s child, I put my own twist on the classic by including dark mint chocolate in the recipe.

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First up, mix the vanilla and white wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

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In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar then set aside.

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Using a kitchen scale, measure 6 oz of egg whites; about 5-6 eggs.

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Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and begin to beat over low speed with a hand-held mixer.

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P5106288P5106291   Gradually increase the beater speed to medium and beat the egg whites for a few minutes.

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Once the bubbles become very small and uniform in size and the egg whites form soft peaks, you’re ready for the next step.

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With the beaters running on medium speed, gradually add the sugar mixture to the eggs.

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Keep beating the eggs over medium-high speed until all sugar is well combined and absorbed.

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After a couple minutes of further beating, your meringue will resemble the photo above.

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Next, add the vanilla/ vinegar mixture and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

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The meringue will really start to thicken.

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Do you see a heart or two swans?

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Next up, melt your dark mint chocolate in a double boiler (or microwave) and drizzle a couple spoonfuls over the meringue.

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Take a large spoon and scoop out a heap of chocolate-marbled meringue.

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Plop and scrape the mound onto a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Using the back of the spoon, make a well in the mount to hold the fruit later on.

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Continue to make meringue mounds, adding more chocolate drizzle with each new layer of meringue.

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You’ll end up with some really cool marbled designs.

Place the meringues in the preheated oven then immediately turn down the temp. These will bake for about an hour. While they’re in the oven, move on to whipping the cream and making the strawberry sauce.

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To prepare the strawberry sauce, simply place 1/2 pound of cleaned and de-greened strawberries in a blender with the powdered sugar then blend.

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Voile!

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You will know the meringues are cooked when the shell is hard to the touch. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven. I’ve read that it’s best to allow them to sit and firm-up overnight before moving them.

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This may be advisable as several of my meringues cracked and crumbled when I took them, only slightly cooled, out of the oven.

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For quality control purposes, I set aside the ugly, crumbling duckling for Sebastian and me.

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As you can see, the shell is crisp but delicate…

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but the inside is soft and spongy like a marshmallow.

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To assemble, place a pavlova meringue on a clean plate, place freshly cut strawberries in the well, top with whipped cream and drizzle with the strawberry sauce.

Light, fresh, sweet and delicate.

I hope this birthday treat is a taste of home for my friend.

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Chocolate Marbled Pavlova with Strawberries

Adapted from Shuna Fish Lydon at simplerecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

Meringue:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 50 grams dark mint chocolate

Topping:

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Whipped Cream for topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar
METHOD
  1. Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pour the vanilla and vinegar into a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and the sugar.
  3. In a large, impeccably clean bowl, whip the egg whites and salt using a hand mixer set to low speed. Incrementally increase the speed of the mixer to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, this will take approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Dribble a few spoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the meringue mixture.
  6. Scoop large spoonfuls of the swirled meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and with the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of each mound. Keep dribbling more chocolate into the bowl as a new layer of meringue emerges.
  7. Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F (120°C). Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white — not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
  8. Once fully baked, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool and harden in the oven over night. Gently lift the meringues from the baking sheet. These will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week in a non-humid house.
  9. While the meringues are cooling, make the strawberry sauce by placing half the strawberries and the powdered sugar into a blender and whizzing until smooth.
  10. Whip the cream and vanilla sugar until soft using a hand mixer in a very cold bowl.
  11. To serve, place a meringue on a plate and dollop a spoonful of cream over the top. Scatter over a handful of sliced strawberries and then pour over the strawberry sauce. Now enjoy!

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Chocolate Sugar Cookies

After not one but two posts dedicated to sugar cookies in the last week, I promise this one is the last for a while.

Although I preferred the vanilla sugar cookies, chocolate was a nice change.

This recipe also came from Annie’s Eats.

It was simple, used on-hand ingredients and made my kitchen smell amazing.

P2123123 Simple stuff, vanilla, butter, powdered sugar, salt, flour, egg and coco powder.

P2123132Sift the powdered sugar into the same large bowl containing the butter. 

P2123140Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

P2123144  Add the egg and vanilla.

P2123145 Blend until incorporated.

P2123137Sift together the flour, coco powder and salt.

P2123147  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend on low speed until just combined.

P2123152I found the dough to be very wet and sticky. Once it had sat in the refrigerator overnight, it was much more manageable.

P2133196  Lightly flour your work surface, roll the dough and begin to cut out.

P2133192 The first round of dough was the best. Once it was drier from the extra flour, the cookies were a bit more tough.

P2133214Now it’s time for icing the cookies. 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

from Annie’s Eats and Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp. (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Blend in the egg and vanilla. 
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated and no streaks remain. 
  4. Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 
  6. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters and place cut outs on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes, just until set.  Let cool on the baking sheet about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Decorate as desired.

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This morning started out like all Saturdays should, with sleeping in and waking up to pancakes.

P2052974 Banana walnut whole wheat pancakes in a pool of maple syrup.

P2052973 After breakfast I went to the gym for Body Balance and, as usual, left feeling amazing.

P2052976 Once home from the gym, I had a simple lunch of French bread with smoked emmentaler cheese and left over creamy avocado sauce from dinner last night.

Lamb’s lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped it off.

After a while I decided to bake some cookies.

After much consideration, I went with a recipe from one of the 160 cookbooks Sebastian recently downloaded for me.

Right from the Amish Recipes E-cookbook!

P2052991Soft Amish Chocolate Chip Cookies

I prefer soft cookies over crunchy ones, but these were too soft and fluffy for me. They were like mini cakes.

Sebastian on the other hand loved them so they won’t go to waste.

Half-way through the mixing, a terrible thing happened.

I was busy creaming together the sugar and margarine when something hit me in the forehead.

Not unusual.

Cookie dough splatter happens all the time.

Then I heard a clink clink of something bouncing onto the floor.

To my surprise, the right beater from my hand mixer laid motionless in the dough.

P2052979 With as much as this machine has been used over the past 2.5 years, I really should have expected this to happen eventually.P2052982 Does this finally justify the purchase of a KitchenAid stand mixer?

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SOFT AMISH CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/2 c. margarine
1 c. sugar
2 large. eggs
1/2 c. milk
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda (place in the milk)
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips or butterscotch chips (I used half chocolate chip and half Heath toffee)

1. Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and milk with soda. Mix together and add baking powder.

2. Gradually add flour and stir well. Stir in chocolate chips or butterscotch chips.

3. Place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 teaspoon of dough. Bake at 400 degrees until the edge is lightly brown.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Sebastian and I have a coupon book for restaurants and services in the Bonn area.

You buy the book for 15 Euros and then are entitled to buy-one-get-one-free meals at the participating restaurants. We’ve probably saved over 80 Euros already and have only used about 1/4 of the coupons.

Anyways, tonight we found a new restaurant from the Gutscheinbuch and had dinner there. The food was good and the atmosphere was really nice. We walked away saving 16 Euros. Success.

The coupon book expires in March so we need to up our going-out game and use the coupons that are left.

Anyways, I hope you all had a nice Saturday too. Enjoy a restful Sunday!

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Sometimes great things come from what appears to be a mistake.

P1292902 In the world of flopped cookie dough balls, these cookies are that delicious mistake.

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White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

  • 1/2 c. non-dairy margarine or butter
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk of choice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/2 c. unbleached organic flour
  • 1 heaping cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 c. white chocolate
  1. Lightly toast the macadamia nuts in a non-stick pan, stirring frequently until the nuts turn golden in color. (Don’t let them burn like I did or else you’ll have ugly black specks in your blond colored cookies.)
  2. Place 3/4 of the nuts in a food processor and blend until a macadamia nut butter forms. I added about 1 Tbsp of the margarine half-way through to speed things up a bit.
  3. Cream together the margarine, macadamia butter, sugars, vanilla and almond extracts.
  4. Sift together the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Add 1-2 Tbsp of milk to form a dough.
  5. Roughly chop the remaining macadamia nuts and the chocolate. Fold into the dough.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F (175 C) and scoop dough into balls. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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We are gathered here today to join two flavors…

P1282894 The only ingredient un-photographed is the milk.

It was an afterthought.

P1292908 The final product is simply irresistible.

When I got home on Friday, I wanted to celebrate reports being done. These cookies fit the bill.

I brought them to a report-finishing celebratory dinner on Friday and no one could believe that these buttery, chewy, crumbly, slightly salty cookies were 100% vegan.

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Delicious- no animal products necessary.

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Easy Oreo Truffles

You’ve probably seen or even tasted Oreo truffles.

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Well, my creative mother took it a step further and used the mint flavored Oreos for her Christmas truffles this year.

PC232401 Crushed up mint chocolate Oreos and cream cheese balls.

PC232522 Dipped in chocolate and decorated.

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Rich, minty, chocolaty goodness!

Happy New Year!

I hope 2011 brings you happiness, health, love and many blessings!

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