Mint Cocoa Hearts

Mint Cocoa Hearts

If you are looking for a simple chocolate treat- that requires no cooking – try Mint Cocoa Hearts. They are tiny, but pack a lot of flavor.

This easy to make candy is made with just a few ingredients. The “dough” is mixed and rolled out. Then you just cut them out into little hearts.

They taste great and they are also a nice project for kids. There is no special equipment needed other than a tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Once they have time to set up- they can be boxed up- or wrapped in individual foils.

So if time is short, and you really want to make something homemade this Valentine’s Day- these could be the answer.

Mint Cocoa Hearts

9 c. powdered sugar
1 c. cocoa
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. water
2 t. peppermint extract

In large bowl combine ingredients until well blended. You can add more water, if needed, 1 teaspoon at a time. Divide mixture into 2 pieces and shape in balls. Place each between sheets of wax paper and roll out to 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out with tiny cutters and place on foil-lined tray. Chill several hours, then wrap up in colored foil or place in tiny candy bags. Makes 80 (1-inch) candies.

Cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutters

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes with Strawberries

I love these chocolate crepes. They make a great dessert, or breakfast, for Valentine’s Day.  The crepes pair nicely with fresh berries, but you could add any number of fillings. Ice cream works, or try jam, pudding, custard or whipped cream.

I topped mine with berries and whipped cream. You could also add some shaved chocolate  as a topping.

If you haven’t made crepes, this might be just the recipe to convince you.

I often make a double batch of the crepes, then freeze some, between layers of wax paper. That way I can have crepes whenever I want.

Truth is, you can fill these crepes with all sorts of stuff. I had fresh berries, so that is what I used. I added some Kahlua to the batter for a little extra flavor and it worked out just great.

You can have all the components ready, then just assemble when ready to serve. Such a lovely dessert.

Here is the recipe.

Chocolate Crepes

1 c. flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
¼ c. cocoa
3 T. sugar
¼ c. Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur or ¼ c. strong coffee
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled

Mix all ingredients in blender (except butter) until smooth, scraping sides often. Add butter and blend well. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or batter can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 1 tablespoon of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 18.

Strawberry filling: I just sliced a couple of pounds of berries and added a little sugar- about ½ cup- a tablespoon of vanilla and a healthy dash of cinnamon.
When filling the crepes I spooned some berries down the center of the crepe and added some whipped cream. Folded over, topped with a few berries and another bit of whipped cream.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I never met a shortbread cookie I didn’t like. These are no exception.  With the addition of cocoa, you end up with a cookie that has the traditional delicate texture of shortbread, with the added bonus of a rich, chocolate flavor.

They are great just plain, dusted with powdered sugar or, my favorite way, brushed with a little melted bittersweet chocolate.

Simple, tasty and a nice treat for the chocolate lovers you love.

Chocolate Shortbread

1 c. butter, room temperature

3/4 c. sugar

2 c. flour

1/3 c. cocoa

1/4 t. salt

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

Beat together butter and sugar until well blended. Mix together dry ingredients and slowly beat into butter mixture, stirring it in at the end. Roll out dough about 1/4 inch thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Re-roll scraps and cut out the remaining dough. Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees until cookies are firm around the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.  Melt chocolate and dip cookies in it or use chocolate to hold 2 cookies together. You can also use a buttercream frosting to make them sandwich cookies. Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on the size.

Chocolate Mousse Cake- Gluten Free

Chocolate Mousse Cake

If you are looking for a dessert for your Valentine, you might want to make this cake. The cake is made without any flour and trust me, you will never miss it.

This is a dessert everyone seems to love whenever I make it. This is  also a great dessert option for those who can’t tolerate gluten. The texture is dense, but not heavy. With only 6 ingredients, it is also pretty simple to make.  While it can be baked in any cake pan, I chose a heart shaped pan this time.

Once baked and cooled, the cake can be served as is, or garnished with any number of things. Fresh berries are always a nice touch, or a light dusting of powdered sugar. Sometimes I’ll pipe some whipped cream around the edges.

Flour-less Chocolate Mousse Cake

½ c. each sugar and water
1 stick butter
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate
6 eggs
¼ c. dark rum or other liqueur

Butter an eight inch cake pan and line with parchment. In saucepan heat together water and sugar until they boil. Stir in butter and bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Beat in eggs until smooth and stir in rum. Pour batter into prepared pan and place pan in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roaster to come up sides of pan 1 inch. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool, invert onto plate.
Serve cake topped with whipped cream and decorate with raspberries, other fresh fruit or even toasted nuts. Dense and rich, this cake serves 8-10.

Finished with powdered sugar and chocolate whipped cream

Finished with powdered sugar and chocolate whipped cream

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

A friend shared this recipe recently, and I was intrigued. I had to try these cookies. The filling for these traditional Jewish cookies is inspired by the filling used in cannoli.

I made a few changes from the recipe he shared, and was very happy with how they turned out.

The dough, which contains no sugar, has a wonderful, pastry-like texture. It pairs up well with the filling. The drizzle of chocolate is a perfect finish for them.

They aren’t a gooey, overly sweet cookie, which I really like.

They pair up nicely with tea or coffee. I confess,  I had a couple for breakfast with my morning tea. I would definitely make these again.

Thanks, Jared, for sharing this recipe.

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

Filling:

¼ c. ricotta cheese

5 oz. cream cheese

½ c. powdered sugar

1 t. cinnamon

½ c. mini chocolate chips

Dough:

½ c. (1 stick) butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese

½ c. half and half or milk

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

2½ c. flour

Topping:

1 egg white

2 T. water

½ c. chocolate chips

Powdered sugar, optional

Prepare the filling. Beat together the ricotta and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the milk and cinnamon, then stir in the chips. Chill until ready to use. Make the dough by mixing the cream cheese and butter together. Add the milk, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth. Stir in the flour until a stiff dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, or put in a bag and chill at least an hour – or up to a couple of days – before proceeding. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a little less than ¼ – inch thickness. Cut dough out into 2-3 inch circles. Place a scant teaspoon of filling in middle of each dough circle. Combine the egg white with water and beat together. Brush a little of the egg white mixture over the edges of the dough circle. Fold the dough up in thirds towards the center, pinching the edges to seal. They should look like little three-corner hats. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps. Brush folded cookies with a little more of the egg white mixture. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake in a 375-degree- oven for 15 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Remove to cooling rack. Once cooled, melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over the cookies. You can top with some powdered sugar, if you like. Makes 2½-3 dozen.

Chocolate Lover’s Waffles

Chocolate Waffles

These waffles can make a great start to Valentine’s Day. Chocolate for breakfast? Why not? They also make a wonderful dessert.

The waffle batter has cocoa in it, for the chocolate flavor, but I added some cinnamon and nutmeg for a little spice. The flavor is wonderful.

Top them with whatever you like. For breakfast, warm maple syrup or a dusting of powdered sugar work well.

For dessert, I enjoy topping them with whipped cream and berries. You can also top with a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge.  If you like, add some chocolate chips to the batter for a stronger chocolate taste.

Chocolate Waffles

 2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 t. vanilla

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. cocoa

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 each baking powder and baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. nutmeg

Beat first three ingredients until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Beat in dry ingredients just until blended. Bake until waffles are cooked through. Makes 4 cups batter. Serve with whipped butter or sour cream and fresh fruit. I like them just dusted with powdered sugar, too.

Red Onion Relish

Red Onion Relish

We made this recipe in a winter salad class the other night. I love the tart flavor and bright color it adds to my food. This relish is a great topper for sandwiches, but can be used for a whole lot more.

The onions can be served with cheese and crackers for an easy appetizer. You can add some to salads, and the liquid can be combined with a little oil for a simple salad dressing. In class, we added some to a zucchini “noodle” salad. Sometimes I just like to serve it as a side dish.

I even had some with my scrambled eggs for breakfast. After you cook it, you just ladled into jars, cool it down, and store it the fridge. It will keep for weeks and weeks.

Red Onion Relish

4-5 medium red onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 c. red wine vinegar
1½ water
1 c. sugar- or to taste
2 T. salt
1 T. mustard seed
1 T. celery seed
1 t. fennel seeds, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick- 4 inch
4 whole cloves
Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Cool and place in jars, then store in the fridge. Use as a sandwich topper, salad addition, appetizer with cheese and crackers. You can also use the liquid as the base for a salad dressings, with the addition of some oil. Keeps for weeks in the fridge. Makes 5 cups.

Mini Chocolate Eclairs

Mini Chocolate Eclairs

If you want to surprise someone with a very special sweet treat, you could make them some eclairs. These are a bit or work, but the end result is so wonderful. I think they are worth the effort, especially for special occasions.

I decided to make a mini version this time, just for fun.

You start by make a pate a chou, or cream puff pastry. This is the same dough used to make cream puffs. It is a combination of water, butter, milk and flour- cooked on top of the stove, then enriched with the addition of eggs. The dough is piped onto baking sheets and baked until puffed, golden and crisp. Once cooled, they are filled with sweetened whipped cream or, more traditionally, a custard filling, then topped with chocolate ganache.

Mini Eclairs

1 recipe Cream Puff Pastry (Pate a Chou)- recipe follows
Egg custard- for filling, or sweetened whipped cream- recipe follows
Chocolate Ganache- for topping- recipe follows

Start by making the dough. This recipe will make 12-18 medium eclairs or 3 dozen of the mini ones.

Cream Puff Pastry

¾ c. water
¼ c. milk*
¼ t. salt
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1¼ c. flour – unbleached or bread flour preferred
4 large eggs
Extra milk for brushing

In saucepan, heat together water, milk butter and salt into a full boil. Butter has to be melted. While stirring, dump flour into saucepan, stirring constantly. Mixture will form into a ball. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking dough, while stirring, for another minute or two. Place dough in an electric mixer and allow it to cool down a little before adding the eggs. Mixture has to be at 140 degrees F, or below, before you start adding the eggs. I use the paddle attachment and beat the dough before adding the eggs. This cools the dough down faster. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat until dough is shiny. A spoon, lifted out of the batter, should leave a peak that does not fall down. *You can use all water, instead of the combination of water and milk, if you prefer. Use 1 cup water in total, if omitting milk.

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. I used a silicone liner and was happy with the result. Don’t grease the pan. Using a piping bag, squeeze the dough into 2-3-inch strips on the baking sheet- leaving a little room in between. Strips should be about ¾ -inch in diameter. Using a little milk on your finger, smooth down any peaks on the puffs. They should resemble miniature hot dog buns. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 375. Bake eclairs 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. Tap the shells. They should sound hollow. Turn off the heat and leave oven door open a crack, allowing them to dry completely. Cool before filling. Makes about 36.

Custard Filling

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1⁄3 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Using a whisk, combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stove top. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan. Remove milk mixture from heat, preferably to a burner that’s turned off.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs into milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking milk mixture constantly. Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil. (If you find that you have egg white strands in custard, feel free to pass it through a fine-mesh sieve into a different bowl now.) Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool before using. Makes 3 cups.

To fill the eclairs, using a small piping tip with a pastry bag, filled with the custard. Squeeze filling in on one end, on through the bottom, squeezing until it seems full.

Once eclairs are filled, top with a chocolate ganache. I just dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm ganache and chill until chocolate sets. Filled eclairs should be stored i8n fridge until ready to serve. They can be frozen.

Chocolate Ganache

4- 6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped- or 1 cup chocolate chips
2 oz. heavy whipping cream

In saucepan, heat chocolate and cream together until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. You can also do this in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave for about a minute. Remove and stir until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

Sweetheart Cookies

For Valentine’s Day, not every dessert has to be chocolate. These sugar cookies would be a great way to share the love.

I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe and cut out hearts. Then used a smaller heart cookie cutter and cut out smaller hearts from the center of half of the cookies.

Sandwich the baked cookies together with homemade strawberry preserves. Use one of the “cutout” cookies on top. It gives a pretty effect to the finished cookies. I used strawberry jam, but any red jelly or jam could be used.

Since I also had a bunch of tiny heart cookies from the cut outs, I used melted chocolate to turn them into tiny heart shaped sandwich cookies.

Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

3 T. milk

Extra sugar for sprinkling, if desired

strawberry preserves or jam

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Beat in milk. Heat oven to 375-degrees. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/3- inch thickness. Cut out with lightly floured cutters and sprinkle with sugar or colored sugar if you like and if you are not going to frost them. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 3 minutes before placing on wire rack to cool completely. Sandwich together with jam when cooled. Makes about 4 dozen.

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Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

My Favorite Blueberry Muffins

Rich Blueberry Muffins

I froze a lot of blueberries when they were in season. I realized that recently when I defrosted my freezer. This time of year I often enjoy using some of those frozen berries in baked goods. Reminds me of warm summer days.

This muffin recipe is one of my favorites. The secret, I think, is the cup of melted butter that is folded into the batter. I also add a little cinnamon, which goes so well with the berries.

You end up with a rich muffin with a crumbly, tender texture and a great flavor. This recipe makes 36 muffins, so you will have extra to freeze.  They freeze great.

Rich  Blueberry Muffins

4 c. flour

2 T. baking powder

1 ½ t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1½  c. sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 eggs

1 ½ c. milk

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted

4 c. blueberries -fresh or frozen

Paper line 36 muffin cups or grease lightly and preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl mix dry ingredients. In smaller bowl mix eggs and milk and beat until smooth. Stir into flour mixture with a fork and mix until just moistened. Fold in melted butter and blueberries divide batter among cups. Sprinkle muffins with a little extra sugar. Bake 25 minutes, or until light golden. Makes 36.