Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cowboy Bark

Quickly running into Trader Joe's one day, I had a moment of weakness at the register. As I came up to pay for my healthy fruits and veggies, there at the display right before the check out was what can only be described as chocolate crack. At Trader Joe's it goes by the name of Ruggedly Awesome Cowboy Bark. Sucked in by dark chocolate studded with sandwich cookie pieces, pretzels, peanuts, almonds and toffee bits, I bought a bag. Then I immediately got in the car, opened the bag and indulged. Holy crap this stuff is good. I may have hid the bag in the car and never told Dave about it, just selfishly nibbling a piece to make the commute home that much more bearable. And possibly a second bag was purchased without my husband's knowledge until I realized this stuff would be far cheaper to make myself. So the last crumbs and pieces made their way into the kitchen (and Dave was introduced) so I could mimic this delicious sweet, salty, chocolatey treat. Besides being cheaper to make yourself, this recipe makes way more than you'd get in the package from TJ's, making it an even better value. But really, the important thing is that you can whip this up in no time, particularly helpful when you don't have time to get to Trader Joe's. This is a crave-able candy, and you're going to want it often.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cheddar Broccoli Rice Cups

When I was single, living alone, and not interested in cooking for one, I used to grab those packaged rice mixes and basically eat the whole thing for dinner. Hey, I didn't say it was healthy. The broccoli and cheese was my favorite. Knowing that they aren't really that good for you, it's literally been years since I've had them and it never occurred to me that I could make a delicious broccoli and cheese studded rice dish from more fresh ingredients. I know, a lot of things go right past me. So when I saw these rice cups, the light dawned on me and into the kitchen I went. Plus, made up in individual portions, I am able to freeze off the extras and pull them out for a quick side dish with a weeknight meal. I already know these are going to be a big hit this summer with grill season. Each cup is loaded with cheese and broccoli for a perfectly delicious rice side in the right portion.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Orange Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been working on these cookies for about a month. For real. To say this was a challenge is an understatement. My director Ann gets a similar cookie from Otter Creek Bakery in Middlebury, VT. She and a friend adore these cookies and have been searching for a make at home version to no avail. So she shared a sample and wondered if I might be able to come up with a recipe. Challenge accepted and conquered. Well, conquered after 5 rounds of recipe adjustments. What can I say, I was determined. While my interpretation has a slightly lighter coloring and a bit of a flatter look, from the sample I had and Ann's feedback, these are pretty spot on in flavor and texture. And the list of goodies is endless: browned butter, chocolate chips, pecans, oatmeal, orange flavoring and all topped off with a candied orange slice. The resulting cookie is hearty with perfect sweetness and nuttiness, a hint of chocolate, vague caramel-like nut flavor from the brown butter and subtle orange flavor that your not sure is in the cookie or wafting from the garnish. No wonder Ann wanted to make these at home--you just can live without them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Candied Orange Slices

Dave and I visit a small oceanside town in Maine every few years. When we're there we visit this awesome handmade chocolate shop. It's family owned and over 100 years old. And the candy is amazing. Wonderful truffles, dipped treats and other amazing goodies. Dave loves their candied orange slices which are then dipped in dark chocolate--an fantastic combination. He's been pestering me to figure out how to make the candied oranges so we could dip them ourselves and I've been dragging my feet. But I recently got inspired to figure it out and these are so simple I can't believe I waited so long. The result is a sweet, potent orange candy. The pulp becomes sweet and gelatin-like, sort of like a gummy candy. And the orange rind ends up a little sour, but totally edible. It's chewy and offers a nice contrast in texture. Certainly not what a normal orange rind would taste like (yuck!).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Black Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

While I'm not exactly sure what happened here, I'm super excited at the pleasant mistake of a (mostly) caramelized streusel topping instead of a traditional crumby coffee cake topping. The caramelized version sealed in the sweet goodness and tender crumb of this lovely coffee cake, swirled with black raspberry jam and dotted with white chocolate chips. Raspberries and white chocolate just work well together and I'm glad I paired them in this delicious cake. I took this to work for a training session can came home with make 5 or 6 slices. Yeah, it went over real well--several people came back for seconds.