Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Hearts

I've had my eye on these cookies for a couple of months now.  I saw the recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine and had to make it happen.  I really like the way the melted peppermints look like a stained glass window pane.  This is a pretty simple recipe with only eight ingredients.  That's my kind of recipe.  

Chocolate and Peppermint Hearts

20 round hard peppermint candies
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.  Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until combined.  Beat in egg, then vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until combined.  Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
Roll out dough to 1/8" thick.  Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.
Preheat oven to 325 F.  Cut out heart shapes using cookie cutters.  Cut a smaller heart from the center of each cookie using cookie cutters that are about 1" smaller than the larger cutter used.  Transfer the cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing each 1" apart.  Bake until slightly firm, about 12 - 15 min.
Fill the center of each cookie with ground peppermints.  Bake until cookie melts, about 6 minutes.  Let cookies cool on sheets set on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Transfer cookies to racks, and let cool completely.

Eight simple ingredients.  What's that?  You only count seven?  Salt was a no-show for the photo.  Oops.

Mix flour, cocoa, and salt with a whisk and then set aside.  


Beat butter and sugar then add eggs and vanilla.  Beat for one more minute.  

Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in cocoa mixture.  

Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.  

It would have been a perfect recipe if I had been able to find my set of heart cookie cutters.  I used to have about seven different heart shaped cookie cutters, each one just a bit bigger than the other.  My girls love them.  They're excellent for playing with play dough and for pretending in the little mini-kitchen and for just carting around.  I made this cookie dough early in the week and have spent the past few days rummaging through all the toy baskets and boxes in a failed attempt to find the largest heart shape.  With the dough in the fridge and the candies on my counter, I could not just abort the recipe.  I could use circles, but hey, it's almost Valentine's Day.  I'm determined to find a large heart shaped cookie cutter, no matter what I have to do.

I live way too far away from real shopping areas to even consider driving around town looking for another one to buy.  So I'm on my own now, time to get crafty.  I busted out my tools and opened my fridge and found a small knight in shining armor who would save the day, my trusty can of chicken broth.  I have no idea how long that can has been sitting in there.  It was time to get rid of it anyway.  And the circumference of the can is just the right size for making the perfect sized heart shaped cookie cutter.  All I need is a little cross section.

Knight in shining armor

Remove the top

Use a hacksaw to slice off a ring that's about and inch and a half thick.  That sounds easier than it really was.  You should really have band-aids at the ready and be prepared to spend some time sawing away.


Sand the edges smooth.

Bend into a heart shape.

It was worth it.

Now, finally, get the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to about 1/8" thick.  Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate again until firm.

Unwrap candies and grind them in the blender.

Cut out shapes and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Don't skip the parchment paper here or you'll never get the cookies off the pan in one piece.  

Bake until slightly firm, 12 - 15 minutes.

Fill the center of each cookie with ground peppermints.  Bake until candy melts, about 6 minutes.  Let cookies cool on sheets set on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Transfer cookies to racks and let cool completely.

Gingersnap Cocoa

This is one of my favorite ways to warm me up and calm my nerves. I don't remember whether it was mom or me or when or how, but, we both drink it almost daily in the winter. You gotta try it!
1t. molasses
1t. or up to 1T. honey/ maple syrup/ or agave
1t. cocoa
1/8 scant t. ginger
1/8 scant t. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. hot water
Mix all the ingredients in your favorite mug, minus the hot water, together until it is mixed thoroughly with your spoon.  Then, add the hot water and stir until blended well.  Enjoy!  Sometimes I will add a dash of cayenne!  That really warms me up!

Being an herbalist, I just want to put a plug in for the great benefits of this drink.
#1 Molasses is high in Calcium, Iron, and Postassium which are all great for our bodies, especially women. I just learned this week that worts, moles, cycts, and tumors are signs of a potassium deficiency.  And the calcium and iron in molasses are more available for the body to absorb than in some animal products that  have high amounts, yet, the body can not use them all.

#2 Honey has antibacterial properities and is very soothing to sore throats. It also has enzymes in it to help it digest in our system, whereas white sugar does not.

#3 Cocoa is a flavinoid that is high in antioxidants and also has an effect on our brains. Chocolate can affect the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons. The amounts of particular neurotransmitters we have at any given time can have a great impact on our mood. Happy neurotransmitters such as endorphins and other opiates can help to reduce stress and lead to feelings of euphoria. Hence, I like chocolate :)

#4 Ginger is a diaphoretic, meaning it makes your inner body warm up and can cause a sweat. It  aids in problems with nausea,  digestion, and diarrhea.

#5 Cinnamon also aids in problems with nausea, helps digestion, and diarrhea to name a few.

#6 Cayenne. If you are so brave to try this, man, cayenne is amazing. Cayenne is a diaphoretic and blood cleanser among many other things. I give it to my children in a warm glass of juice or chocolate when they have a bloody nose or are bleeding excessively from a wound. It will equalize the blood pressure throughout the body so that your nose isn't bleeding profusily and will allow to clot quicker. Give it 30 seconds and you will see a difference for sure! I put it on a deep gash Emma had just above her eye brow. She was crying anyway, so, I thought, sure. Well, she didn't notice and it helped to slow the bleeding down extremely and then the clot could form. Cayenne is one of the best things you could take if you are having a heart attack. A pinch of cayenne in some warm water and drink it up. It will help the blood flow to regulate, the body to calm down, and buy you some time to get to the hospital or doctor.

Ok, so I could go on and on. . . :) I only scratched the surface at what each of these ingredients do for our bodies. But, isn't that so cool!!!!?  Still haven't found my camera cable. I think Noah walked off with it. He loves to fit things into other things. I'm hoping I will find it intact.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Creamy, Vegan, Chocolate Smoothie

tastes like a Wendy's Frosty, only better!

1 Cup Raw Cashews, soaked for a few hours
2 or 3 Cups Ice
3 Tablespoons Raw Cocoa
2 Medjool Dates
3/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Real Maple Syrup or Agave
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put all ingredients in blender, mix on high.

This is a great high protein, after workout drink!
(It's like the workout justifies the chocolate!)

And some for my grandkids, too!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate rolls

I've always wanted to try these. Whenever I'm making cinnamon rolls and it's time to sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar on, I always think "I wonder what this would be like if I used cocoa?" So, here it is!!!

You all know how to make cinnamon rolls, so pretty much I'll just tell ya what I did in the short version.

Just use what ever bread recipe that you like for cinnamon rolls. When you're all ready to spread on the ingredients then you just spread the butter. Instead of cinnamon and sugar just sprinkle cocoa and sugar (I used 1/3 cup cocoa and 1/3 cup sugar). And you know the rest, then bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes and when you take 'em out of the oven make a glaze (I just use powdered sugar and water) and drizzle it on while they're still nice and hot.

I have to admit I was really surprised at how good they turned out. I would even make these again. There are so many things you could add to spruce 'em up - nuts, dried cherries, maybe some spices. Although, I really liked 'em just like this.

And uh.... so did Daniel, (he didn't know I was taking his picture)

and Andrew.

Sarah didn't want any.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate!

I have this theory that chocolate slows the aging process... It may not be true, but do I dare take the chance?

I don't understand why so many chocolate lovers complain about the calories in chocolate, when all true chocoholics know that it is a vegetable. It comes from a bean, beans are veggies, 'nuff said.

Chocolate is strengthening, restorative, and apt to repair decayed strength and make people strong.--Louis Lemery (1702)

I could give up chocolate, but I'm not a quitter!

And I love Katherine Hepburn's quote, "What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate."

It's brownies for breakfast, girls!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

rainbows and ice cream

It was a week full of cupcakes.  What a great week!  Stella and Mabel helped make cupcakes to bring to school and share with their pre-K class on Thursday.  Stella did a great job filling the cupcake papers.  I experimented with rainbow frosting.  I just filled the pastry bag with three different colors of frosting and squeezed.  Easy peasy.  I like how it turned out.  Later that day we bought mini-cupcakes and shared them with their dance class.   

The next round of cupcakes were our ice-cream-cone-cupcakes.  These were really fun to make.  I remember having cupcakes baked right into the cone when I was a kid.  They were really good!  I went online to find out how to get it done but found a lot of reviews saying that the cones turn out soggy if the batter is put right into the cone and then baked.  So I opted to bake traditional cupcakes and cram them into the cone after they are baked and cooled.

Strawberry soft-serve or cupcake in disguise? 

Start with a cake mix and follow Heidi's instructions for preparing your mix.  Spoon batter into cupcake papers and bake.  
After the cupcakes are cooled pipe frosting around the opening of an ice cream cone.  This will give the cupcake something to stick to so it doesn't fall off the cone.  Unwrap the cupcakes and squeeze it halfway down into the top of a cone.
Snip the tip off of a pastry bag so there is a nice large 1/2" opening and pipe frosting around the cupcake so it looks like smooth creamy soft-serve.  Top with sprinkles and a peanut butter M&M.

Stella and her purple balloon.

"A Huhu! I'm all Shook Up!"

I wanted to find something that every one could make. I have plenty of things that some of you just wouldn't have available in your pantry and I wanted to try to make something that you might all have and possible try. So, thus, the creation of this treat. For those of you who are not aware, Elvis Presely's favorite sandwiches were peanut butter and banana sliced sandwiches, which are a favorite in my house as well. Hope you enjoy it!

Elvis Presley Shake/ IceCream

2 bananas
2 T. honey
2 T. peanut butter
2 c. water
15- 20 pieces of ice

Other Options to add:
1 T. coco powder 
1 t. vanilla 
1/4 t. cinnamon

Smooth in a blender and enjoy as a shake or place in the freezer and stir every 30 min. until desired firmness. "Uh, thank you, uh, thank you very much!"

(I lost my cable for my camera, so a picture will come at a later time. Sorry :(  )