Tag Archives: chocolate

A Warming Dinner Party

Long weekends are perfect for hosting dinner parties – you have multiple nights you can host and plenty of time to cook, set up and recover.  I used this menu recently on a cold night and it was perfect to shake off the winter blues.  Light some candles, stoke the fire and settle in for a nice night with friends.

Chile Oil-Marinated Goat Cheese

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Easy to make and needs to be made in advance is key when thinking about snacks before dinner.  This checks both boxes – I served the goat cheese with a baguette, some crackers and sliced soppresata along with a couple of bottles of bubbly to start the night off right.

Roasted Prime Rib with Thyme Marsala Sauce

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I had never made prime rib before and man is that hunk of meat intimidating!  Especially when you pay good money for something you really want it to turn out well.  First time was a total hit.  This Giada recipe is easy to follow and delivered a perfectly cooked prime rib with a delicious crust and the sweet and savory sauce that went alongside.  Even if you are a prime rib expert this is one recipe worth trying.

Mashed Potatoes

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Had to give my boy mashed potatoes alongside the prime rib.  Use your favorite recipe or if you want to take it up a notch go with my Over the Top Mashed Potatoes.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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Posted earlier this month, these sprouts are a quick and easy side that can come together as you make the sauce for the prime rib.

Dark Chocolate Terrine

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Another new to me recipe from the real Contessa that is crazy good.  I could drink the orange sauce straight and be happy but the rich frozen mousse-like terrine is to die for.  Definitely don’t forget to sprinkle with sea salt before serving.  So just head to the grocery store tonight and you can easily host this fabulous dinner party for your friends this weekend.

Nanny’s Hot Cocoa

If you live on the East Coast you are probably also dealing with the first blizzard of the year.  DC has, well lets say “issues” dealing with snow.  I have lived here for over a decade and I am still surprised by how paralyzed the most powerful city in the world becomes with just a few flakes of snow.  As a Bostonian it took me a while to adjust but I have learned not to fight it and pretend that we are better at this than we are.  The smart thing to do is hunker down, have plenty of food and wine on hand and ride it out.  One of the best ways to do that is with a nice mug of my Nanny’s hot cocoa – especially post shoveling.  I like to buy some cans of evaporated milk right at the start of winter so I have it on hand, it’s perfect for a storm like this when you want to ration fresh milk.  One of my earliest memories is making this cocoa with my Nana.  When you mix the cocoa and sugar together it creates almost a little cocoa facial and the smell always brings me right back to being with her.  Hopefully we can get out of here soon but in the meantime I am going to sip this cocoa and binge on Homeland.  Stay safe and warm!

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Another option to stay warm!   

Nanny’s Hot Cocoa (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  5 days snow bound and counting…
Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cans of evaporated milk (regular or reduced fat)
  • mini marshmallows (optional)

In a large saucepan whisk the sugar and cocoa together until completely combined.

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Shake  up the evaporated milk and whisk in.  Use the empty cans to add 2 cans of water.  Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and all the ingredients are combined.  Heat over medium high until hot to your liking.  Any leftover cocoa will last in the fridge for several days.

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Nanny's Cocoa

  • Servings: 6
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Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cans of evaporated milk (regular or reduced fat)
  • mini marshmallows (optional)

In a large saucepan whisk the sugar and cocoa together until completely combined.  Shake  up the evaporated milk and whisk in.  Use the empty cans to add 2 cans of water.  Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and all the ingredients are combined.  Heat over medium high until hot to your liking.  Any leftover cocoa will last in the fridge for several days.

Holiday Bark

Every year I try and find new things to gift that are edible.  At some point no one really needs more stuff and food gifts are a great way to tell people you care.  Second only to my spiced nuts, this bark always gets top ratings from my friends and family.  Bark is by far the easiest thing to make and you can mix up what kind based on the person you are giving it to or what is in your pantry.  This method makes bark even easier as it entails almost zero clean up.  Most recipes will have you “temper” the chocolate, which means slowly melting it over a double boiler while adding more chocolate as it melts to keep a steady temperature.  This keeps the chocolate from getting a gritty texture and a grey color (no good!) but is kind of a pain.

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Years ago I saw a tip in Southern Living magazine about just putting the chocolate on a cookie sheet in a low oven.  The heat just barely melts the chocolate so you don’t run the risk of grey bark and it’s already spread out on the sheet so all you have to do is spread it out a bit more and sprinkle on the toppings.  Once the bark is hard you throw away the parchment paper which means only 1 spatula to clean.  Here I give you 2 different variations but use whatever kind of chocolate you like – other good bark toppings are crushed candies like peppermint, chopped dried fruit such as apricot or cranberries, you could even throw on mini marshmallows and graham cracker cookie shards and make smores bark.  The options are limitless so next time you get invited to a last minute holiday party, within an hour you can have the perfect hostess gift.

Holiday Bark (printable version at the end of the post)
Special Equipment:  parchment paper

  • 4 four ounce bars of good chocolate – I used 3 dark chocolate and 1 white chocolate bars
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and line with chocolate pieces.  If you are going to use two chocolates like I did with the dark and white break up the pieces and mix them together so you can swirl them when they are melted.  Otherwise you can just unwrap the bars and lie them next to each other like I did with the 2 other dark chocolate bars.

 

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Bake for 5 minutes – the chocolate should still be holding its shape but when you press it with a spatula its melted inside.  Using a spatula swirl the two chocolates together and spread them out so the layer is even (if you use one kind of chocolate just use the spatula to spread it out and make sure no logos remain).

Sprinkle with toppings evenly (I did one tray of dark and white chocolate with pecans and sea salt and one dark chocolate with pomegranate seeds and sea salt).

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Place in the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.  Break up the bark into smaller pieces and serve or gift.  If you use a fresh ingredient like the pomegranate seeds you should serve them right away or store at room temp for no longer than a day.  Any other topping stored in the fridge will last at least a week.

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Holiday Bark

  • Servings: enough for 4-6 gifts
  • Print

Special Equipment:  parchment paper

  • 4 four ounce bars of good chocolate – I used 3 dark chocolate and 1 white chocolate bars
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and line with chocolate pieces.  If you are going to use two chocolates like I did with the dark and white break up the pieces and mix them together so you can swirl them when they are melted.  Otherwise you can just unwrap the bars and lie them next to each other like I did with the 2 other dark chocolate bars.  Bake for 5 minutes – the chocolate should still be holding its shape but when you press it with a spatula its melted inside.  Using a spatula swirl the two chocolates together and spread them out so the layer is even (if you use one kind of chocolate just use the spatula to spread it out and make sure no logos remain).  Sprinkle with toppings evenly (I did one tray of dark and white chocolate with pecans and sea salt and one dark chocolate with pomegranate seeds and sea salt).  Place in the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.  Break up the bark into smaller pieces and serve or gift. If you use a fresh ingredient like the pomegranate seeds you should serve them right away or store at room temp for no longer than a day.  Any other topping stored in the fridge will last at least a week.

Smores Bars

I don’t do camping.  I am what you call a city girl – too many trees and fresh air I say.  One previous misguided attempt at camping was derailed by a leaf falling on the tent which sent me running.  So I was a little late in the game on the whole smores thing. but I am catching up quickly.  I mean who wouldn’t like gooey melted marshmallow partnered with luscious chocolate and that snap of graham cracker??  Thanks to the proliferation of fire pits one doesn’t need to venture into the forest to enjoy a good smore.  I like to enjoy them on our back patio with a nice glass of red wine.

or this!

But what if it’s too hot or buggy out?  What if the thought of your children holding sticks over open fire makes you nervous (or your husband for that matter)?  Then these bars are for you.  My BFF and I thought about wpid-20150524_195514.jpgways to make these even easier by using brownie mix and fluff or marshmallows – I am proud to say she even experimented with it herself (Kar – share in the comments section!).  However, the base recipe is actually pretty easy, especially if you have a stand mixer.  Meringue can take some getting used to if you havent made it before but hopefully the pictures help  Just be careful to not set your broiler to high like it did – 5 more seconds and the whole thing would have been up in flames!  Also make sure to have some milk on hand, as these bars are super rich.  They can sit for a couple of days too so make them today and enjoy tomorrow.  Best way to test a new recipe?  Find a willing taste tester – as you can see these were a hit with the younger crowd.  Since its a holiday I am going to take a break from the menu calendar but never fear the shopping list and menu suggestions will be back next friday.  Happy 4th everyone!

Smores Bars (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   S’mores Bars with Marshmallow Meringue by Food and Wine Magazine
Special Equipment:  stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides.  This is an awesome way of baking things, especially sticky things, as you can just pull the whole thing out using the tabs and not have to worry about the sad odd-shaped brownie.

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In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Dont worry if it’s not perfectly even, just make sure the crumbs cover the entire bottom.

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Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler – that is a fancy way of saying placing a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Fill the pot with water but not so much it touches the bottom of the bowl.  This is the best way to melt chocolate – it can scorch pretty easily so you want to use indirect heat.

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Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat, for about 5 minutes.  It will go much faster if you chop the butter and the chocolate into small pieces and stir it a lot.

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Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

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A good way of figuring out if the sugar is dissolved is to dip your fingers into the mixture and rub them together.  If you can still feel the grit of the sugar, keep it on the heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the wpid-20150524_151635.jpgmixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  It should be able to form “stiff peaks” meaning when you pull the beater out of the mixture and turn it upside down the egg whites should be able to stand on their own.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if it’s got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

Smores Bars

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Special Equipment: stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler.  Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the mixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if its got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

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