Decadent Desserts

A week’s worth of chocolate

Did you know chocolate is a vegetable? That’s right. Explaining her recent study results, which showed that people who get a daily dose of chocolate are slimmer than those who don’t, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said, “It’s my favorite vegetable.” Dr. Golomb cited chocolate’s antioxidant prowess when comparing it to other vegetables. She also relayed that chocoholics those in the study who ate chocolate each day had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Well, of course, I want to make sure that we’re all getting enough vegetables in our diet so here’s a week’s worth of recipes so you can get your fill.

Monday

Whole wheat chocolate yogurt loaf

Keep 100% whole wheat bread moist by adding in plenty of Greek yogurt and chocolate, of course!

Tuesday

Blueberry-spinach chocolate brownies

Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

These brownies have a boost of extra nutrition from a blueberry-spinach puree that you mix in the batter. My teen loves these brownies even though they do turn out a bit softer than your straight-chocolate recipe.

Wednesday

Easy peanut butter cups (no bake!)

These homemade peanut butter cups are easy to put together. Thanks for the idea Martha and Me.

Thursday

Chocolate chocolate chip cookies

From Garlic Girl, add cocoa to your chocolate chip cookies for a extra boost of the good stuff.

Friday

Chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake

My signature dessert that I try to make infrequently because it’s soo tempting. (I should point out that technically you should be sticking to around an ounce of daily chocolate so you’d need to be nibbling your cheesecake slice.)

Saturday

Lemon Ginger Shortbread S’mores

Chocolate and lemon make such a surprisingly perfect combo–add a toasty marshmallow topping to make this updated kid classic from Good.Food.Stories.

Sunday

No cook cocoa granola bites

End your week with these simple treats that have both cocoa powder and mini-chocolate chips (although feel free to add the regular size if you feel like you haven’t been getting enough chocolate in your diet).

*Special thanks to the National Institutes of Health for funding this study and others like it. Dr. Golomb mentioned she needed to do additional studies. The big question: WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?

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Rocky road pizza

When I picked up the phone this afternoon at first I thought something was wrong. On the other end, my mother-in-law just didn’t sound like herself. When I asked what was up, I had to laugh at her response: “Kris, I finally tried Nutella today. It was a-m-a-zing.”

Even though she spent part of her childhood overseas, my mother-in-law had never tried Nutella. She’s hooked now. We talked about all of the ways she could use it, but one of my newly discovered favs has to be rocky road pizza. Bonus: these mini dessert pizzas are fun for kids or grandkids to make!

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: 4 mini pizzas with 4 slices each


Ingredients

1 package pizza dough

1-1 1/2 cups Nutella

1-2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup smoked almonds, chopped (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking oil.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one out to a 6-8-inch circle.
  4. Spread Nutella on each pizza round using a kitchen knife.
  5. Place the mini pizzas onto the baking sheet.
  6. Sprinkle marshmallows, nuts and chocolate chips (if using) on top of the Nutella.
  7. Bake the pizzas for 20 minutes or until the marshmallows become golden.
  8. Cool before slicing.

Kids’ reactions: As you might expect, all of my crew, including Mr. Squid raved about these mini pizzas. We also tried mixing apple slices with Nutella on pizzas too. The pizzas were harder to slice than the rocky road version but at least I felt like they had some nutritional value. I’m thinking when raspberries are in season it would be tasty to spread the pizzas with Nutella and white chocolate chips and once they came out of the oven I’d pop on fresh berries.

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Dark chocolate apricot cheesecake with blackberry sauce

Chocolate. Make that dark chocolate. That’s what Happy Valentine’s Day are all about. If you’re looking for something decadent and special come February 14th, this is one show-stopper of a dessert. And the best part is you can make it a couple days ahead of time: it’s even better after it’s had time to–in Mr. Squid’s words–”densify.”
I actually made this dessert by request awhile back for my tween’s birthday cake. But I was getting bored doing the same-old cheesecake; I wanted to have some fun with the recipe.
So I was looking for a few ways to tweak my classic recipe and I thought of a common dessert combination from Viennese desserts where apricots are the fruit of choice with chocolate, instead of strawberries or raspberries. I like a hint of tartness to desserts so along with subbing apricot jam for raspberry, I also decided to forgo the regular whipped cream on top with a fresh blackberry sauce instead. That said, you can’t even taste the apricot in the final cake, it just intensifies the depth of the dark chocolate.
You’re intrigued, right? I hope so. This was by far my favorite cheesecake I’ve ever made. Ever.
Note: Another update to this recipe was trying to make it just a smidge healthier. I know, this wouldn’t qualify for a light recipe by any stretch of the imagination but I used Neufchatel cream cheese instead of the full fat variety and I nixed the whip cream for a fruit sauce. Small steps, right?

Okay, one more note: Please don’t let these directions scare you, just being thorough here because I believe in cheesecakes without cracks, and a waterbath is the way to go.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + 75 minutes baking + 60 minutes cooling

Servings: 12

Ingredients
Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted (lower fat butter works well too!)
Cheesecake
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup apricot jam
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (Neufchatel recommended)
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar (I used 2/3 this time)
4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Sauce

2 cups blackberries (thawed or fresh)

1 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

lemon (optional)

Directions
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-apricot mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Constructing a waterbathConstructing a waterbath: Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Make sure the foil comes all the way upBake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.

For the sauce: Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner). Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart. Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender. Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce. Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton

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Homemade gift idea #2: Nutella hot fudge

Nutella takes hot fudge to the next level

Nutella makes anything it touches creamier. And I’m still convincing myself that it’s somehow better for you than your average chocolate spread, what with all the ground hazelnuts in there. So when I was throwing together a homemade hot fudge sauce to dress up brownies I was serving to guests I figured mixing in a little hazelnut might make the sauce even better. Granted, it’s hard to mess up a hot fudge sauce, but the Nutella did exactly what I’d hoped–upped the richness of the flavor and texture of the hot fudge.

The best part? Well, besides having to do a little quality testing yourself on the sauce, that is. You can pour the melted sauce into containers to give to friends as gifts. As with the berry sauce (homemade gift idea #1), you might want to attach a couple recipes with the sauce, like the best brownies ever or even brownie waffles.

Nutella hot fudge

Prep time: 5 minutes

Servings: 1 cup (easy to double, triple)


Ingredients

1/2 cup dark chocolate (I use semi-sweet Ghirardelli)

1/2 cup half and half

2 tablespoons Nutella

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate and the half and half in a glass measuring cup.
  2. Heat at medium-high in the microwave for 90 seconds. Stir vigorously.
  3. Keep heating the sauce at 20 second intervals until the chocolate begins to melt.
  4. After stirring the chocolate until smooth, add in the Nutella and continue stirring.
  5. Cool slightly before pouring on brownies.
  6. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long!) and should be heated before serving.

BONUS: Nutella is offering a giveaway until 12/31. You can enter here.

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Easy raspberry tart

Raspberry picking. Yes it’s that time of year. Once you’ve had your fill of popping fresh raspberries by the handful, try this easy tart (and yes, I snuck in some blackberries and blueberries too).

You’ll need a tart pan for this recipe—a pie plate just won’t do. You could try using a 9-inch springform pan in a pinch, but once you’ve tried making tarts, my guess is you’ll want to have one on hand anyway. Tart pans aren’t expensive and you can find them at any large home goods store.

You pre-bake the piecrust to keep it from getting soggy once you add the berries. To pre-bake, the oven will need to be at a higher temperature and you’ll also want to add some weight on top of the crust so it doesn’t get air bubbles in the dough. Simply place some heavy-duty aluminum foil on top, along with either uncooked rice or beans and you’re set. (Once you’re done cooking, carefully remove the aluminum foil and pour the beans or rice back into its container once they’ve cooled. You can still use them.)

The berries are the easiest part of the tart: Wash and dry the berries, then mix in cornstarch, sugar, and lemon. I like my tarts, well, tart, so I don’t add in as much sugar as most recipes call for. If you want to increase the sweetness go ahead and double the sugar.

No fresh berries? Don’t worry, this recipe works well with frozen berries too (or do half and half). Thaw the frozen berries and follow the recipe according to the directions.

Raspberry Tart

Tweaked from How to Cook Everything (Wiley, 1998)

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: about 8

Ingredients

1 pre-made pie crust (Trader’s Joes is my fave)

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

zest from one lemon

3 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen, thawed)

Directions

  1. Lightly coat a tart pan with cooking spray. Lay the dough onto the pan and then press into the edges and up the sides. Trim any excess.
  2. Prick the dough with a fork and then place a piece of aluminum foil on top and weight it with either rice or beans.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once heated, cook the crust for about 15 minutes of until barely golden.
  4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl stir together sugar and cornstarch. Toss in the raspberries (reserve ¼ cup) and lemon juice and zest.
  5. Mix the berries into the cornstarch/sugar combination. Press the berries with a fork so that some break apart.
  6. Pour the berries into the cooked tart crust. Add the reserved berries on top.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook the tart for another 20-30 minutes, or until the berries’ juices are bubbling.
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Quick pretzel smores

It’s National Toasted Marshmallow Day! Can you believe I almost missed it? I know, I know, it seems like there’s a day for everything now, but hey, it’s a great excuse for passing along this simple recipe I like to think of as smores ‘deconstructed’ (even if there’s no roasting involved).

There are just four ingredients to this dessert that comes together quickly. Plus, it’s easy enough that you can explain how to put these together, give your kids the ingredients and then let them go to work.

Ready for the shopping list? One bag big marshmallows, one box graham crackers, 1 bag pretzel sticks, and of course, melting chocolate. That’s it.

Once your have everything together, put one of your kids in charge of crushing the graham crackers (my middle daughter loved this task!). Then melt one cup of chocolate pieces in the microwave. I separated it out into two bowls so that I wouldn’t hear complaints about somebody taking all the chocolate. Although with three kids, and two bowls, there were still some claims of chocolate swiping.

Before you dip the marshmallows into the chocolate you’ll want to make sure it’s cool. If you’re chocolate is too hot, the marshmallows will melt into it, instead of getting a nice coating. Test the temperature by dipping a spoon in and then dip your finger on the chocolate. As long as it’s lukewarm, you’re good to go. Now for the fun part—dip & roll. Set the finished marshmallows on waxed paper until they set. It’ll only take a few minutes.

Recipe

Servings: About 30

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 bag big marshmallows

1 sleeve graham crackers (or 1 cup crushed)

30 pretzel sticks

1 cup melting chocolate

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate in a glass, microwave-safe bowl and heat on medium power for one minute, thirty seconds (microwave temperatures may vary).
  2. Stir the chocolate until smooth.
  3. Place pretzels into the marshmallows.
  4. Crush the graham crackers to make one cup, then place in a shallow bowl.
  5. Dip the marshmallows one at a time into the chocolate, then the graham crackers crumbs.
  6. Place on waxed paper to set.
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Potato chip brownie sundaes

Here’s the set-up: my daughter “had” to have brownies for an activity and I found out about an hour before. That’s when I reach for the nearest box of brownies. Nothing fancy, but it comes together quickly.

Once she got to the activity, someone else had already brought the treat. We had a pan full of lackluster brownies that needed a little enlivening. Enter potato chips.

I’ve been noticing the trend toward adding saltiness to add depth and interest to desserts. I like it. Have you noticed the ‘in’ flavor right now for ice cream is salted caramel?

That was in the back of my mind when I created a rich chocolate sauce–bittersweet chocolate, a touch of semi-sweet melted into heavy cream (it was slightly bitter to compensate for the sweet brownies). I made a swath of the chocolate sauce on each person’s plate, followed with a brownie, topped with vanilla ice cream and crushed potato chips. The crunchy, saltiness of the potato chips pulled all the dish together. Yum.

If I were to do it again, and trust me, my kids are making requests, I think I’d process the potato chips in a food processor until the were fine and then roll the ice cream in the pieces.

Your turn–have you noticed sea salt making an appearance in desserts? Have you tried adding a hint of salt to chocolate to bring out its flavor?

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Mini oatmeal peach crisps

Warm peach slices with a crumbly, buttery filling, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a summertime tradition growing up. Of course, I’ve got to continue that one! When I see peaches at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, I figure it’s peach crisp baking time. And I like to take it one step farther and make ‘em mini. You can still use a regular dutch oven or casserole dish, but for change I’ve included the instructions for using ramekins (sorry, using a muffin pan for this one is a no-go).

I looked through several recipes—and even tried one that literally fell flat—before deciding on the one below. In my mind, fruit crisp has to have oatmeal in it (that’s so you can eat it for breakfast on day #2 and feel like it’s nearly as healthy as oatmeal on its own). But most recipes relied just on oatmeal without including flour, which made for a less crisp crust.

Another point on the crust—I like to cut the butter in with a food processor versus doing it by hand. But the first time I added in all of the dry ingredients from the beginning, then my oatmeal was reduced to crumbs. Ditto for the nuts. To keep my oatmeal and nuts from disappearing, I processed the dry ingredients with the butter first then added in the oatmeal and nuts at the very end. Two pulses so the pieces are still chunky.

Recipe

Tweaked from The American’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons flour

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)

¼ cup almonds

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

About 10 peaches

Blueberries or blackberries (optional; I had some handy so I threw ‘em in)

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Place the peaches in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

    Found this little pot with a lid on sale--perfect for mini foods

  2. Allow the peaches to sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Pour out the hot water and rinse the peaches with cold water.
  3. Peel the skins off the peaches, remove the pits, and then slice into ¼” pieces. Place the pieces into a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch and cinnamon.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a food processor place the flour, sugars, salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  6. Place the oatmeal and almonds into the butter mixture and pulse twice to four times (you don’t want to pulverize the nuts and oatmeal just break them up slightly).
  7. Lightly grease a 9” casserole pan or dutch oven (preferred). Place the peach slices into the pan and then add the butter mixture on top.

To make ‘em mini

  1. Grease one 7-ounce ramekin per peach.
  2. Distribute peach slices into ramekins (keep in mind the peaches will shrink by almost half when cooking so this will seem full but they’ll go down–promise). Toss the berries on top.
  3. Carefully top each ramekin with crumb mixture, pressing it down as you go.
  4. Bake on a cookie sheet (I overfilled one and it bubbled over but it still tasted good).
  5. Serve to smiling kids.
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BEST brownies ever

I’ve been meaning to pass along this recipe for awhile now but it seemed like the right timing with Memorial Day this weekend (knockout picnic treat anyone?) and school coming to an end. Not only are these the BEST brownies, but my youngest daughter has a chocoholic teacher so I’m planning on making a batch of these just for her. And if you’re looking for more ideas to thank your child’s teacher check out these ideas courtesy of Motherboard.

So what makes these so good? Chocolate. I know, that’s obvious, but we’re not talking just cocoa powder here or gobs of flour, the main ingredient in these brownies is the good stuff. And there are layers of chocolate–with the butter, mixed with the flour, the eggs. As with the best desserts–in my sweet tooth opinion–they’re better on day two when they’ve had a chance to densify (that’s a word we’ve invented just for these brownies; they’re airy on day #1, dense with dark chocolate day #2).

I bake these in a parchment-lined pan so I can easily lift them out and make perfect cuts and shapes with the brownies.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate

1 ¼ cups sugar

12 Tablespoons butter

1 cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons cocoa powder, Espresso powder, or black onyx powder

½ cup chocolate chips (optional, cuz there’s not enough chocolate already)

1 cup walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the chocolate, sugar and butter together in a large glass bowl in the microwave, heating it at half power in 1-minute intervals. Cook just until you can stir to combine. Step aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs together until frothy and all the Espresso powder.
  4. In another mixing bowl, mix all of the remaining dry ingredients (baking powder, salt, flour, cocoa) together.
  5. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat to combine.
  6. Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate just until combined. Pour into prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9×13” baking pan sprayed with cooking oil. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick; when it comes out clean the brownies are done baking.

Optional directions for the perfectly cut brownie:

  1. Spray the 9×13” baking pan with spray and then add a sheet of either parchment or wax paper to the bottom of the pan, spray again. Pour the brownie batter onto the paper.
  2. Bake as directed above.
  3. Let the brownies cool and then place then in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  4. Lift the brownies out of the pan and then remove the pan underneath before placing on a cutting board.
  5. Use a sharp knife to remove the outside edges, then cut the brownies into 11/2 to 2” squares.
  6. Keep in the fridge for best, most intensely chocolatey results.
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My mother’s day meal

Note to self: remember to take the camera off landscape

Can I just say, I heart Mother’s Day–from the little handmade cards to the extra hugs (not to mention breakfast in bed!)–I enjoyed every minute of it. So today I wanted to thank my hubby and his little helpers for making it so memorable.

As requested, my hubby fixed Mexican food for dinner. He went all out–shredded beef taquitos (he marinated the meat overnight, bless him!), mushroom and chorizo quesadillos, rice and refried beans. And that’s a dollop of guacamole, fresh-made salsa and chipotle creme sauce on top. It was delicious.

For dessert, I talked him in to making crepes (well, it didn’t take much convincing). He filled the them with Ghirardelli chocolate, almonds, dried cherries, honey and walnuts and then thinned Nutella to slather on top along with a handful of raspberries. Mmmmm (and yes, I’m trying to get him to do a “guest” post on crepes). Happy Mother’s Day everyone! Now what to do with the one leftover crepe…

Crepes for a crowd

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