My favorite form of chocolate…

Prepare for your world to be rocked… the recipe calls these “brownies”, but I made mine a bit more like cake. Either way – brace yourself!

A shout out to my boss who brought these brownies into work around Christmas time… thanks Marsha!!! So, so, so good! And thank you for sharing the Penzeys catalog you brought back from your road trip! I have appreciated reading about their product line and some of the other recipes they share in their catalog! THIS ONE, though, BY FAR, is my favorite!

The idea of pouring the cocoa frosting over the piping hot cake is stellar… it’s like there are 3 layers of goodness to eat your way through: the top layer of cocoa frosting followed by a very moist and rich chocolate cake… but in between those two layers is a melty layer of fudge-like goodness (created by what I can only describe as a “melding” of hot cake and fresh frosting poured on top). Oh wow… this really IS chocolate nirvana!

Favorite Chocolate Brownies
Recipe courtesy Annette Gong, Penzeys Spices Fall 2010 catalog pg 53

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup butter
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 pound powdered sugar (4 ¼ cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 10×15 rimmed pan or 9×13 pan (for more cake-like brownies) and set aside. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and water and stir well to combine. When the mixture starts boiling, remove from heat, pour over the dry ingredients and stir. Add the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into the pan for 18-20 minutes, 25 if baked in a 9×13 pan. (Note from Lori: I made mine in a 9×13 pan and found it needed more like 30 minutes.)

During the last 10 minutes of baking, make the frosting. In the same saucepan you used earlier melt the butter. Add the cocoa and buttermilk and stir. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Fold in nuts, if desired. As soon as you remove the brownies from the oven, carefully pour frosting over hot brownies.

Sidenote on making your own buttermilk – have you ever heard of such a thing?! I used to get frustrated buying buttermilk for a specific recipe and only needing 1/2 cup of it (knowing a good portion of it would go to waste). Well, I ran across a way to make my own buttermilk as a substitute for the real stuff.

What you’ll need:
– milk (just under one cup)
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice

How to prepare:
1. Place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.
2. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.
3. Let stand for five minute. Then, use as much as your recipe calls for.

And it REALLY works! I love these kinds of kitchen tips…

Confession time:
As I prepared this blog entry, on a Saturday morning, I was enjoying a piece with a hot cup of coffee. As the saying goes, life is short – eat dessert first!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…


Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes

Two nights ago my hero-of-a-hubby asked for a favor … he wanted some chocolate treats in the house. Which means he wanted me to bake his favorite = brownies. But I had a full day on Friday and knew I wouldn’t be able to get any baking in…

So I stopped by Trader Joe’s. And I found these… Chocolate Lava Cakes!

They are packaged two to a box… already cooked, packaged and then frozen individually.

Remove the packaging, including the cup … and then you can either cook them in the microwave (one at a time) or bake them together in the oven.

In hindsight though, I think I should have turned the cups over and so the cake was “upside down”… right? Not sure if the packaging instructed me to do so… but I seem to remember seeing them that way… right? Who knows… (admittedly, they won’t taste any different)

My Friend Debbie also suggests to cook these about 3 minutes less than the box says… this will ensure that the “lava” flows freely from the center when they are broken into…

And of course she was right… the lava flowed. And my hero-of-a-hubby was happy to have chocolate.

Someday I’ll bake these from scratch… but Trader Joe’s version was a lifesaver last night!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

It’s rich… creamy and smooth, full of flavor and a perfect remedy for a sweet tooth! Oh yumm… thank you cousin Amy for sharing this recipe with us a few years ago. WHERE in the world did you find it?!

Secondly, thank you for continuing to make it for us… we love you more for it!

Here’s where I started… chocolate cookie pie crust, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, instant coffee granules, heavy whipping cream and chocolate syrup.


Start with dissolving the instant coffee granules in some hot water and set aside.

Make quick work of whipping up the heavy cream… and set it aside…

Then whip up the cream cheese until fluffy… and add all of the other ingredients…

… sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup…

… dissolved coffee granules…

… and continue mixing until smooth.

Lastly, fold in the whipped cream. Slowly… and enjoy the prrocess…

It’s a beautiful thing…

Pour the mixture into the pie crust and tap the pie plate on the counter a few times… this will allow any bubbles to come to the surface and settle the mixture into the pie plate evenly.

Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon… and lick the spoon clean. Yes, I give you permission…

Carefully set pit plate in safe, flat spot in freezer until it sets up.

It’s so good you’ll want to go back for another bite… but only a bite… right?!

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake
Recipe shared by my Cousin Amy

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup chocolate syrup
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons instant coffee, in 1 tablespoon hot water
½ pint heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 chocolate cookie crumb pie crust

Whip heavy cream until the peaks stand, set aside. Whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup and coffee. Mix well. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into pie crust. Freeze 4-6 hours.

Once ready to serve, remove from freezer and allow to sit out for 10-20 mins. It will be easier to cut if you use a warm butter knife.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Batch #14

It’s the week before Christmas… I’m busy in the kitchen working on batch #14 (or is it #15 now?!) of the Nutty Toffee.

I’m getting ready to crack this one apart and start another batch…

I wish I had another jelly roll pan this size… I could make 2 batches at once. Hmm… is it too late to add something to my Christmas wish list?

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

goodie platters…

I’ve been enjoying this week’s tasks: delivering holiday goodie platters like one of Santa’s lil’ elves.

And the fun will continue next week as packages go in the mail for those living farther away. Dentists across the country can thank me for promoting good cheer (and padding their wallets).

Are YOU giving/sending goodie platters to friends/relatives this year?

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

let the holiday goodies begin…

Yesterday I enjoyed a pear pizzazz (or three), some nutty toffee with friends… while I baked some more of Gramma H’s Sugar Cookies. It’s beginning to look (and smell) like Christmas…

This week I will continue this craziness while I prepare boxes and containers to send out to family…. and I can’t wait to show you a surprise later this week!

In the meantime, look at this scrumptious collage of holiday YUMMINESS!!!

Right now the house smells a little like apple cider (ok, the house smells a LOT like apple cider…) and I’m off to enjoy the day.

What are YOU doing to enjoy this weekend?!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Red Velvet was made for HALLOWEEN!

But first off let me show you what the sunrise looked like this morning! Awesome!

Then I got to work to finalize the details on our trick or treat event at work.

I made Red Velvet Cupcakes and brought in some decorations. Some of the decorations were homemade and some were store bought.

I made the headstones (cute stamp I found at Michael’s, eh?!) … but bought the “Have a Fang-tastic Halloween” food picks.

As usual, we commandeered the closest conference room and made a mess of it. All it needed was a few wicked scary decorations…

… and I’m still buzzing from all the sugar over-load!

I made a few of the cutest-little-pumpkins-you-ever-did-see, and figured I ought to share them as well: paper pop-up pumpkins

What are YOU doing this Halloween?

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

A favorite: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants

I owe my friend Jan a HUGE THANK YOU! Now, to answer the question on why it took me so long to pick these up at Trader Joe’s and try them for myself…

WHY, oh why, did I wait so long?!

You can find them in the frozen food section… they are packaged in a box of 4. Trust me on this one… buy more than just 1 box.

Follow the instructions on the back of the box: lay them out on a buttered/lined cookie sheet, seam side down. And allow them to thaw, raise overnight…

Approximately 10 hours later this is what they look like.

To give the tops of the croissants, brush them each with a little bit of egg wash. And then place them in the oven.

About 20-25 mins later this is what you have…

If you can stand it, allow them to cool for about 10 mins and then eat ONLY one… I dare you!

But don’t take my word for it… try them for yourself!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Pain au Chocolat… aka chocolate croissant, my nemesis

I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Ate – Sweet Tooth” on Food Network the other day. And Chef David Myers waxed poetic about the pain au chocolate at the Tartine Bakery. With a hushed voice it sounded as if he was speaking of a secret lover…

And then all I could think about for the rest of the day was the first pain au chocolat I enjoyed when I was working/living in Geneva, Switzerland. On my walk to work there was a patisserie … that smelled oh so good!

It became a special treat for me…. on Tuesdays, and sometimes Fridays. (They were closed on the weekends… you see my dilemma!)

Fast forward about 10 years, a french bakery came to my downtown area: A Delight of France: French Bakery and Bistro.

My Tuesday ritual started again. But somewhere along the way life took over and the ritual stopped.

Until I saw/heard Chef David Myers confessing to his favorite sweet tooth treat.

So, can you guess what I did next?!

(silence please… and a hush came over the crowd)

You see, they make the pastry… and before baking it there are pieces of chocolate layered inside, ever so gently. They melt just perfectly. It creates two “tunnels” of chocolate… and makes you long for more.

And the flaky exterior… there are no words…

But don’t take my word for it, go find one for yourself!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

not just ANY chocolate chip cookie…

This week I read a blog and saw these: Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh man, that Pioneer Woman! She’s a genius! I keep my malted milk powder and my chocolate chips on the same pantry shelf … and it NEVER dawned on me to combine them into my classic choclate chip cookie!

But as soon as she suggested it, I knew I’d love it! (Confession: every now and then I’ll consume a very small tablespoon of malted milk powder … just for kicks!)

In her blog, Ree notes that these cookies come out ‘very thin’ – she wasn’t kidding. They sure are thin… in fact, when I first laid them out on the cooling rack one of them folded in half and fell through the rack! (Darn, I’ll have to clean that up… ahem! Excuse me.)

And like I do with every batch of cookies I bake, I made ice cream sandwiches. It was a warm day… and an ice cream sandwich was a perfect treat!

Put the lid on…

And press down…

I know I don’t need to say it, but make sure you consume before the ice cream melts…

So, what are you still doing sitting here? Go make some of these cookies!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…