Chocolate Raisin Nut Clusters

chocolateraisinnutclusters

March 24: National Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day

This blog post is dedicated to our New Jersey friend Gary B. who, whenever we went out with him and his wife to dinner and a movie, would get a bucket of buttered popcorn and a box of chocolate-covered raisins to eat—even if he already had a big meal. His habit of combining popcorn and Raisinets has influenced us, as we now like to eat something sweet with our salty snacks.

We no longer live in the Garden State but still watch a matinee in the local theaters once in a while and eat popcorn and candy. On some Saturday evenings, we laze around the house and watch videos and also eat microwaved popcorn with a side of homemade chocolate raisin nut clusters. They are an amped-up version of Gary’s favorite movie theater treat.

Our double-dating days with our friends may be over because of the distance now. But Gary can still enjoy this easy recipe with his family in their huge home theater. And we can all treat ourselves to chocolate raisin nut clusters on National Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces chocolate, dark or milk, melted
  • ½ cup peanuts, unsalted
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions

Line a cookie pan with waxed paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, melt the chocolate (over a double boiler or in the microwave according to the directions on the package). Stir until smooth. Add the peanuts.

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Stir in the raisins and coat everything well. Use a small scoop to drop a cluster on the prepared pan, leaving ample space between each candy. Refrigerate to set until firm. Peel the clusters from the waxed paper. Serve at room temperature.

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Notes

  • This is a very versatile recipe. Exchange the peanuts for pistachios, macadamias, cashews, etc. Use golden raisins or dried cranberries.
  • Instead of dropping clusters on waxed paper, spoon them into mini cupcake or candy papers for an elegant presentation.

 

Chocolate Soufflé

chocolatesouffle

February 28: National Chocolate Soufflé Day

While going out on “date nights”, we are always impressed when we see the waitstaff present a chocolate soufflé to couples sitting at other tables at a romantic restaurant. Then we want to order one, too, because 1) it is chocolate (duh!) and 2) it looks so light, fluffy and fancy! But we can enjoy that delicious dessert at home without paying the “fancy” price. Serve soufflés with fresh berries or à la mode (with vanilla ice cream) and that makes them extra special for someone special! Extend your Valentine’s Day celebration and make a chocolate soufflé on National Chocolate Soufflé Day and the end of National Chocolate Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Good Housekeeping)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 4 ounces baking squares), melted
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white (total: 3 eggs, minus 1 yolk)
  • powdered sugar

Directions

Spray small ceramic ramekins with nonstick baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy brand) OR generously butter the bottom and sides of the ramekins and sprinkle a little sugar in them. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to the package instructions. Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate with the condensed milk until smooth. Beat in two egg yolks (saving the remaining one for another recipe).

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In a separate bowl, whisk 3 egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg whites in thirds into the chocolate mixture and fold until just incorporated. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

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Sift about 1 scant teaspoon of powdered sugar over each of the tops. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 11-13 minutes or until the tops rise about half-to-an-inch above the rims of the ramekins. When done, remove from the oven and serve immediately while the tops are still risen.

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Notes

  • Avoid over baking or the soufflés will have a cake-like instead of light and airy texture with moist centers. Also do not open the oven until the end of the baking time or the soufflés will fall (scroll down to see our deflated ego soufflés on our Food Flops page).
  • Check out our cheese soufflé recipe for a savory snack. 
  • Our date nights and “month-aversaries” are not always held at fancy restaurants. Sometimes we just go out to get a pepperoni pizza or try a new ethnic restaurant. The main point is to focus on us and on our marriage, especially when life gets too busy or complacent. As marriage sponsors, we always advise our church couples to have date nights—whether fancy or frugal!
  • Search our blog for other chocolate recipes.

 

 

Choco-flan

Chocoflan

September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

At a cake club meeting that Islander had attended, one of the members brought in a curious cake called choco-flan. It was a doubly delicious dessert of chocolate and custard. It is also popular among her Mexican friends whose country is known for xocolatl y flan. Islander added Texas’ state nut, pecans, to decorate the top of the cake for a Tex-Mex taste. Thanks to her Mexican friends for introducing this recipe to us. In their honor, and as an homage to all our Hispanic friends, we made this cake in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Muchas gracias, amigas.

Recipe

Inspired by nuestras amigas en San Antonio, Tejas

For the cake

  • 1 bottle or can of dulce de leche or cajeta (caramel), divided use
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (may use devil’s food, triple chocolate fudge or other favorite chocolate cake mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 eggs

For the flan

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vainilla (vanilla)

Directions

Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Then pour about a cup of caramel to coat the sides and bottom. Set aside. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box by combining the cake mix with water, oil and eggs and blending into a smooth batter. Pour the cake batter over the caramel. Set aside.

Choco-flan

Make the flan by mixing the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla.

Choco-flan

Pour the flan mix over the cake. It will sink to the bottom. Place the bundt pan in a larger pan. Pour boiling hot water in the larger pan up to the middle of the sides of the bundt pan to make a “water bath”. Mist a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the bundt pan with the sprayed side down (this will prevent the risen cake from sticking to the top of the foil). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flan to chill and solidify.

Choco-flan

Take out from the refrigerator and carefully invert on a plate. Drizzle more caramel on top of the choco-flan and let it drip down the middle hole and sides. Toast whole pieces of pecans by heating the nuts in a small skillet, being careful not to burn. Cool the nuts then place them decoratively on top of the choco-flan. Refrigerate. Slice and serve.

Choco-flan

Notes

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

December 8: National Brownie Day

We have blogged several times about brownies before. But this one is baked with a special ingredient—a chocolate candy bar! And it’s not just any bar—it has hemp seeds! Hemp is related to but is not the same as marijuana, although they both come from one of the varieties of their common cannabis plant. When baked into brownies, a few people automatically assume there is “pot” in it, which is illegal in some states. Nevertheless, we reassured our skeptical friends that they would probably only get high on sugar and not on “weed”! For National Brownie Day, bake some brownies with a special ingredient—a chocolate candy bar with or without hemp.

Recipe

(Adapted from Dave Lieberman of the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick butter) butter, melted, divided use
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 hemp chocolate candy bar, coarsely chopped

Directions

Prepare an 8×8-inch square baking pan that has been lined with foil with a little hanging over the edges (this will act as the “handles” to lift the cooled brownies from the pan). Grease the bottom and sides of the foil-lined pan with 2 tablespoons melted butter. With the remaining butter, combine it with the sugar in a mixing bowl.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Beat in the egg, water and vanilla. Next, add the salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and flour.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Fold in the chopped hemp chocolate candy bar pieces. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top is shiny and slightly wrinkled. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Use the foil “handles” to lift the brownie out of the pan. Cut into squares and serve. Yield: 16 brownie pieces.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Notes

  • Thanks to Lisa L. for giving us the special ingredient for this recipe—the hemp chocolate candy bar. The hemp seeds added a nice occasional crunch to the fudgy-cake like texture in this brownie.
  • Substitute the hemp chocolate candy bar for a cup of another candy bar (like Snickers fun size or mini chocolate-peanut candy bars).
  • Search our blog for other brownie recipes.

No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice Cream

June 7: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

Earlier this spring, we took a road trip to Brenham, Texas (about an hour-and-a-half’s drive northwest from where we currently live), with our Hawaii ex-patriate friends Pat and Phyllis S. from San Antonio. We wanted to see blue bonnets and the Blue Bell Creameries. We did see a few of the wildflower fields but, unfortunately, the ice cream factory tour was cancelled due to listeria. News crews were in front of the creamery ready to report about the recalls. 

Lately we have been experimenting with making ice cream at home. At least we know what ingredients are going into our recipe—no listeria hysteria! We do not have an ice cream maker and do not want to buy one. But the no-churn method of making ice cream seems to work just fine!

For a no-churn chocolate ice cream, we tried mixing cocoa powder and melted chocolate in the basic recipe. The colors varied from pale cocoa to muddy brown, depending on what was added. The tastes ranged from milk chocolate to intensely dark. The textures went from icy-chunky to smooth and creamy. All versions were delicious!

As the hot summer season approaches, stay cool and safe from listeria by trying a homemade no-churn chocolate ice cream recipe for National Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Nigella.com)

 Ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream, whipped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder OR 3-4 ounces melted semi-sweet/bittersweet/unsweetened chocolate (we used Baker’s brand)
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR ½ tablespoon of crème de cacao liqueur (optional)
  • chocolate syrup to drizzle on top (optional)

Directions

Whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk with the cocoa powder OR melted chocolate. Stir well. Add a pinch of salt (optional). Mix in the vanilla extract or liqueur (optional).

Chocolate Ice Cream

Fold the whipped cream into this mixture until smooth, being careful not to whip more air into it. Place in a loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Let stand for a few minutes and scoop into cones or dessert dishes. Drizzle with chocolate syrup (optional).

Chocolate Ice Cream

Notes

  • If using melted chocolate, let cool slighty before mixing with the condensed milk and whipped cream.
  • National Ice Cream Day is also celebrated on the third Sunday of July.
  • Search our blog for other no-churn ice cream and chocolate recipes.

Brigadeiros

(Brazilian Chocolate Truffles)

Brigadeiros

May 2: National Truffle Day

We had a Brazilian classmate, Thaís C., in our Teaching English as a Second Language certification program. On “graduation day”, she brought in brigadeiros, her country’s version of chocolate truffles. The tray of treats was finished so quickly—and there were only four of us taking the intensive training course!

Brigadeiros were named after the rank of Brazilian Brigadier Eduardo Gomes (1896-1981), an air marshal and politician. These chewy chocolate truffles are very easy to make and consist of only four ingredients—sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter and sprinkles.

Thanks to Thaís for introducing us to brigadeiros and for sharing her recipe. Enjoy these Brazilian chocolate truffles on National Truffle Day.

Recipe

From Thaís C.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • chocolate sprinkles/jimmies

Directions

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter slowly. Add the condensed milk and cocoa powder, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Be careful that the bottom of the pot does not burn. Transfer the mixture to a buttered bowl. Cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Brigadeiros

Butter or grease hands and roll mixture into one-inch balls (or use a buttered or greased scoop). Place on wax paper. Roll each ball into a bowl of chocolate sprinkles. Place into miniature cupcake or candy papers. Chill until ready to serve. Yield: Approximately 15 brigadeiros.

Brigadeiros

Notes

  • Brigadeiros may be coated in coconut flakes, chopped nuts or colorful nonpareils as well.
  • These Brazilian chocolate truffles look like the black mushroom truffles!
  • Search our blog for other Brazilian recipes. Bom apetite.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

October 26: National Pumpkin Day

Remember the story of Cinderella where her fairy godmother transformed a plain pumpkin into a pretty carriage? Well, we also made some magic on a basic bundt and dressed it up in the glorious colors of autumn. Although it isn’t as simple as waving a wand, decorating the cake is actually do-able, even for beginners.

For this particular post, we baked a chocolate pumpkin spice cake, glazed it in decadent chocolate, drizzled it with a pumpkin-colored/pumpkin flavored confectioner’s coating (candy melts) and sprinkled it with seasonal nonpareils (fall leaves). Like Cinderella entering the grand ball, this cake is sure to be a showstopper at seasonal social gatherings as well!

Add your personal and magic touch to a plain chocolate pumpkin spice cake and get creative in decorating it. What a way to celebrate National Pumpkin Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn)

For the chocolate pumpkin spice cake

  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix (we used Duncan Hines brand)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chocolate cake mix, pumpkin and eggs.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend well. Fold the cinnamon chips into the cake batter. Spread evenly into a greased bundt pan.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven. Cool completely in the pan before inverting onto a wire rack over a foil-lined lipped pan.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

For the chocolate glaze and decorations

  • ½ cup (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate (baking squares or chips)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup orange candy melts (we used Wilton’s seasonal pumpkin flavor)
  • colorful seasonal candy sprinkles (optional)

Directions

In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Heat until melted. Mix until smooth. Drizzle on the top of the cake and let the glaze run down the sides.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

In a microwave-safe cup, melt the orange candy melts. Spoon in a decorator’s bag outfitted with a small round tip. Being careful not to burn your hand, drizzle on top of the glazed cake in a back and forth motion all around. Finish by sprinkling some colorful seasonal candies on top. Let the topping set. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Notes

  • Add a teaspoon or two of vegetable shortening to the candy melts for a thinner consistency.
  • Sprinkles can be black and orange jimmies, Halloween nonpareils or autumn leaves (like we used for this recipe) to reflect the fall flavors and season.
  • Search our blog for other pumpkin recipes.