Peppermint Chocolate Martini


I typically don’t like super sweet drinks.  But man-oh-man this is one tasty beverage. More boozy desert than anything.  Very simple to make and perfect on a cozy winter evening.  Enjoy!

Tools you’ll need:

  • cocktail shaker
  • measuring cup
  • grater or plane
  • handful of ice
  • chilled martini glass

Ingredients

  • 4oz your favorite vodka 
  • 4oz chocolate liqueur (I used Trader Vic’s because they were out of Ghirardelli)
  • 4oz Bailey’s original
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Ghirardelli peppermint bark square (or any chocolate you have – but this is the peppermint element) 

Combine first three ingredients in the cocktail over ice. Shake really well.  Shave about a tablespoon of the chocolate bar of your choice and set aside. Put a small dot of the chocolate syrup on your finger and run it around the rim of the frosted glass. Repeat until the rim has chocolate syrup all around it. Roll through the shavings until coated. You could also use crushed candy canes for this.

Right before you are ready to pour, drizzle chocolate syrup along the walls around the inside of the glass.  Immediately pour shaken mixture into glass before the chocolate starts to drip.

PRO TIP: Having all ingredients cold helps the look of  the drink hold up. So does frosting the glass. 

Muffin Mania


I went a little crazy this weekend… call it Easter-inspired or bad-weather-I’m-stuck-indoors-inspired… but I’ve been baking muffins. Lots and lots of muffins. Below are my four favorites: Tuscon Lemon Muffin (with my homemade ricotta and olive oil); Key Lime Zest Muffin; Dark Cocoa Muffin; and Bacon Cheddar & Jalapeno Corn Muffin. All four were adapted from this month’s Cooking Light Magazine, with small tweaks of my own.

Instead of doing four separate entries I’ll just list the recipe under each photo.

Tuscan Lemon Muffin
Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat or part-skim ricotta (best with homemade)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (roughly one large lemon)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (half of one large lemon)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first four ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl and create a well in the center. In a separate bowl combine ricotta and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top of batter.

Bake at 375º for 16 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 186; Fat 6.2g; Protein 4g; Carb 29.5g; Fiber 0.6g; Chol 21mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 160mg; Calc 81mg

Key Lime Zest Muffin

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime zest (roughly three small-medium limes)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (roughly 2 limes)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime zest for topping

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first four ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl and create a well in the center. In a separate bowl combine cream cheese and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle (or directly zest using a plane) remaining lime zest and turbinado sugar over top of batter.

Bake at 375º for 16 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 186; Fat 6.2g; Protein 4g; Carb 29.5g; Fiber 0.6g; Chol 21mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 160mg; Calc 81mg

Dark Cocoa Muffin

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all=purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dark chocolate mini-chips, divided

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat oven to 400º
Combine first six ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl stirring with a whisk. Create a well in the center of mixture. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist. Fold in chocolate chips until mixed evenly into batter.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle remaining and chocolate chips on top of batter.

Bake at 400º for 15 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 191; Fat 7.6g; Protein 3.1g; Carb 29g; Fiber 1.5g; Chol 15mg; Iron 1.5mg; Sodium 197mg; Calc 37mg

Bacon Cheddar & Jalapeno Corn Muffin

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 `/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first eight ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl stirring with a whisk. Create a well in the center of the bowl. In a separate bowl combine cream cheese and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process.

Bake at 375º for 15 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with a pat of butter.

Calories 160; Fat 7.9g; Protein 4.8g; Carb 17.7g; Fiber 0.9g; Chol 23mg; Iron 0.9mg; Sodium 299mg; Calc 89mg

Petite Butter Crust Galette filled with Dark Chocolate Ganache


These tasty little dessert galettes will amaze and impress your friends. They’re like having your own personal little chocolate pie… and who doesn’t want that? The laborious handmade buttery crust will give them that wow factor I’m always looking for… but feel free to try a pre-made crust if that’s too time consuming or intimidating. Be sure to include the egg and vanilla creamer wash and they will still be pretty delicious.

Ingredients:
Butter Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

Filling
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Himalayan pink salt for dusting (Kosher sea salt is fine if you can’t find this)

Egg Wash
1 med egg yolk
2 tablespoons of non-dairy vanilla creamer

Preparation:
Crust
1 – Cut the sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour (the longer the better) so that they become thoroughly chilled.
2 – Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
3 – Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
4 – Remove crust disks from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a large circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Using a 3 inch round cookie or dough cutter, cut out as many circles as you can get from the surface. Remove leftovers and gently kneed together and roll out again. Repeat until almost all the dough is used  Set is 3″ rounds, two inches apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and cover with a wet paper town to keep moist.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla creamer. Set aside.

Filling
1 – Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined.
2 – Spoon the filing into the center of the dough round and swirl with the back of the spoon until you have an even layer, leaving 1/4-1/3 inch of dough showing.
3 – Pinch edges of exposed dough up until you form 5-6 points, creating a “bowl” for the chocolate.
4 – Use a pastry brush to wash over pie crust with the egg wash. Be sure to get the top edges.
5 – Take a small pinch of the Himalayan pink salt and spring over the chocolate.

Ready to Cook?
Place cookie sheets on a middle rack in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Ovens vary, so check your galettes at about 15 minutes to see how they are doing. The edges of the crust should golden brown. Wait 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The Perfect Bite
As with any baked good – the perfect bite is always best right our of the oven. But caution… wait at least 5 minutes or you will scald the roof of your mouth. I may or may not know this first hand.

The Perfect Pairing
This may be the first mixed drink I have recommended. But I have a couple of reasons for suggesting pairing this dessert with a drink called a Presbyterian. Mainly, because these little galettes are a bit of religious experience. And I am, after all, a bourbon-drinking-Presbyterian. So, it’s fitting. But also, the rich dark chocolate, sprinkled with the Himalayan pink salt has an earthy sweetness that takes you buy surprise. As does the Presbyterian with its mix of ginger ale and bourbon… earthy sweetness in a highball.  A red wine would be good, but predictable. Try these two together and thank me later.

The Perfect Health
Hallelujah! Dark chocolate may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. Read more HERE.  Plus, my friend Tracy Utley claims it cures the common cold. And I, for one, believe her. She’s a mom of 4 boys, after all.

Mint Chocolate Salted Cookies


These mint chocolate cookies come with a surprise little bite. A little salt in the batter gives them an unexpected savory “wow factor”. I took them to a party last night and kept hearing throughout the room… “Oh my gosh! Have you tried these cookies? And that’s what I was going for…

Ingredients
(makes 2 1/2 dozen)
1 cup Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
¾ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-½ teaspoon mint extract
2 whole eggs
1-¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher sea salt – generous
1 cup Turbinado sugar for dusting cookies

Preparation
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer). Add the vanilla and mint extracts and then add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly with each addition. Combine the cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and gradually stir into the creamed mixture.

The dough is rather sticky so I find it easiest to use an ice cream scooper to scrape about a walnut-size ball of dough from the bowl. Roll dough into a smooth ball and then roll in Turbinado sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with the palm of your hand. Space about two inches apart.

Ready To Cook?
Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and the tops are cracked, but still soft. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Perfect Bite
Um, it’s a delicious cookie. Every bite is perfect. Warm from the oven of course.

The Perfect Pairing
Oh just do it – dunk it in milk and call it a day.

The Perfect Health
Well, it IS a cookie. And it IS made with a full cup of butter. So let’s just say… enjoy these in moderation. 🙂

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits


…or cookies. They’re technically cookies but they look like, and have the texture of, biscuits. Plus, if I call them biscuits then I can have one for breakfast with less guilt. So yes, browned butter chocolate chip biscuits is what I’m officially calling them.

Wait… browned butter? What exactly is that?

Because I didn’t take photos while browning my butter I’ve found this great site that shows you exactly how. But making browned butter is fairly simple… you basically melt butter in a small sauce pan and continue it on a medium to low flame until it builds a froth on top.  You’ll begin to see light browning spots in the froth and it will take on an earthy, nutty aroma. You have to watch it so it doesn’t burn… but the perfect browning happens right before it’s about to burn. The browner the butter, the better the flavor. Chill in the fridge until it becomes solid. You want it to be soft, but not melted. If it cools too hard, let it come back to room temperature before using. This will become your new secret ingredient that brings that “wow” factor to whatever you’re making.

Ingredients
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup browned butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 pound) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan (or two) with parchment paper.

Beat the brown butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium high speed with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined on medium speed. Add the chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

The batter will be soft and fairly sticky. This is when I pull a large sheet of saran wrap out and put the dough in the center and roll it into a long tube-like shape, roughly 2″ in diameter. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until it becomes more firm.

Ready to Cook?
Remove dough from the fridge and unwrap. Slice into 3/4″ dials, leave whole or  divide in two for smaller biscuits. Place on baking sheet leaving 2 inches in between each biscuit. (I divided the dials in 2 with the biscuits pictured above and below). Bake until golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

The Perfect Bite
Of course, hot out of the oven is the best bite for any baked good and it’s the same for these. But please, let it cool enough so as not to burn your palate for good!

The Perfect Pairing
Most people, including my roommate who jumped right into the kitchen as soon as these were done, prefer a cold glass of milk. But I’m a coffee and biscuit fan myself. But it’s all a personal preference when it comes to desserts. Heck, have a glass of Merlot with your browned butter chocolate chip biscuit if you want. This is America after all.

The Perfect Health
Butter, browned or not, should be consumed in moderation. I would recommend not using butter substitutes, I mean, do we really know what’s in that stuff? But butter, real butter, tastes better and is a “real food”. But moderation is key, regardless of what Paula Deen says.