Healthy fudge!

•March 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, this is a super simple one. I made a healthy chocolatey peanut butter nut fudge the other day… and seeing as Eli and I ate almost the whole batch in two days, I figured it was good enough to share!!

I got a great healthy alternative recipes book a while back and finally had easy access to an oven, so I decided to pick an easy recipe and go for it!

Here’s how simple this puppy is…

Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix (you can use your favorite, but I do recommend one with walnuts for texture)
1 can of pumpkin (15 ounces)
2 tbsp peanut butter (give or take a little)

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350.
Combine pumpkin and brownie mix, stirring until it’s smooth.
Use nonstick spray to grease a 9×9 baking dish, and add mixture. Smooth out so it is even.
Spoon the peanut butter over the dish, and then swirl with a knife on the top of the batter.
Bake for 35 minutes… it will seem undercooked.
Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Slice, and serve. Store in the fridge.

It’s so simple, and so delicious! I was pleasantly surprised… I’m not usually a fudge person because it’s way too sweet in my opinion. But this is a nice cross between gooey brownies and a lightly sweetened fudge… so delicious and VERY addictive – but you’ll feel better about eating them knowing they’re not bad for you at all, especially with all that pumpkin! And don’t worry, you don’t taste pumpkin at all… just gooey chocolatey goodness!

Hope you can try these out!

No, CHOCOLATE is a girl’s best friend!

•December 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Okay, so the topic of this blog is chocolate. For those of you who don’t know, I love love love chocolate, and I absolutely adore when a business does it right.

About 2 or 3 years ago Eli and I went on one of our outings, and this time wound up in Asheville, NC. During our time there we took photos and explored the city a bit, but most important for me was a little chocolate shoppe we stopped in called The Chocolate Fetish. As if the name doesn’t say enough, this is by far THE best place for chocolate in my opinion. I’ve had chocolate this and chocolate that all growing up, in so many forms, in so many places… but nothing has come close to how awesome this place is. It’s a great little locally owned shop that’s been in business since 1986, and boy do I know why! It’s because they have a variety you won’t find in many chocolate shops, they use the most decadent ingredients, are insanely creative, and offer chocolates that taste like a little piece of heaven.

"The best box of chocolate ever!"

I’ll tell you briefly about a few of the chocolates that are our favorites and must-haves whenever we’re in Asheville (or the vicinity). The first would have to be truffles. They have a line of American truffles which tend to have a more dense filling (similar to truffles found at Godiva), and then European truffles which are a lighter, airier consistency. Our favorites are hands down the European ones. And I’ll tell you that I have always loved Godiva chocolates, but I’d pass them up any day to get some from Chocolate Fetish (sorry Godiva). A side note – from my experience, the prices are very similar to Godiva if not better on some… but you’re getting fresh candies that are made right there on the premises which you can’t beat.

Eli’s favorite truffle without a doubt is the Chai Moon truffle. They blend the 14 spices used in Chai Tea with a milk chocolate ganache. It’s then enrobed in white chocolate, and dusted with cinnamon. He could easily eat a box of these in one sitting. He also really likes the French Velvet truffle as well, and is often looking for new ones to try because their flavors are really creative.

"Chai Moon"

I have two favorite truffles: the Champagne and Wine & Roses truffles. I also got to try a newer one last time – the Key Lime Pie truffle… and it was fabulous!!!
The Champagne truffle is a dark chocolate center flavored with a burst of French champagne, then encased in a dark chocolate shell and brushed lightly with gold dust. Divine.
The Wine & Roses truffle (probably my ultimate favorite truffle if I could only pick one) is a dark chocolate ganache infused with a French red wine and an essence of roses, then covered in decadent dark chocolate. To make it oh-so-perfect, they place a small piece of a crystallized rose petal on top.

"Wine & Roses"

Another fantastic candy that we cannot leave without is the Sea Salt Caramel. I could eat these things by the dozen, they are so fabulous!
Lastly, the must-have for everyone in my opinion are the “Frogs”. Frogs at Chocolate Fetish are like an alternative to the Turtles you find in the grocery store and likely grew up with. But Frogs are a much more high class decadent treat. They have so many options with them, and I’ve tried them with pistachios and pecans. They also have cashews for those who prefer them. Personally our favorite is the pecans. They take the nuts, cover them in a mound of homemade caramel – and this is where the best part is. It’s not the caramel you get in most other chocolates, the kind that sticks in your teeth and you’re left building your tongue muscles trying to get it out for hours. On the contrary, this caramel is creamy and delicious but will NOT force you to look silly for hours trying to fish bits out of your teeth. This is the best caramel I’ve ever tasted. And then, oh then… they’re smothered in milk or dark or white chocolate. Of course, my favorite is dark and Eli’s is milk. They are just so delicious I could go on and on about them.

"Dark Chocolate Pecan Frog"

The Chocolate Fetish has become THE place for us when it comes to chocolate. We will, when we can, escape to Asheville with the sole purpose of eating. We eat Cuban food and chocolate… that’s all we need and its so fabulous!

Eli has a tendency to eat all of his chocolates in one or two sittings, and RARELY can make them last more than 2 days. In fact, the last time I brought him back a box of chocolates, he ate them within hours of my return. On the other hand, I’m usually the one saying “But you have to saaaaaaavor it!” so I have a tendency to make mine last many days (if I can, haha).

So that brings me full circle… diamonds don’t really impress me. But chocolate, and fantastic chocolate, will always be my best friend! No contest, it’s Chocolate Fetish that wins my heart!

They do ship in case you want a taste for yourself – check them out and the MANY other items they offer HERE.

Tofu, or not Tofu…

•November 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We’ve started experimenting with tofu a bit lately because we know it’s pretty healthy and that you can experiment with it, because the options are endless.

Yesterday I picked up some regular firm tofu and today I wound up making this salad that both Eli and I were sad about – sad when it was gone that is! So I thought it would be the perfect one to blog on. It’s not so much about the recipe sometimes, but about the willingness to experiment, which we both learned here. I experimented with the cooking, and we both experimented with the tasting.

So here’s my recipe for this delicious salad…

Tofu Cranberry Salad
1/2 block tofu, firm, cubed
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
About 3 tablespoons of salted sunflower seeds, shelled of course
A salad bowl of mixed greens (about 2 cups, more if you prefer)
Your favorite salad dressing (we used a pear vinaigrette that was delicious!)

The night before you are going to make your salad, cube the tofu and pat it dry to remove excess liquid. Put it into a plastic baggie and pour on some of your favorite salad dressing. We recommend a vinaigrette. In this case, I had just enough (about 1/4 cup was good for us) of a blush wine vinaigrette for the marinade. Shake up the bag some to coat tofu and set in the refrigerator.
The next day, drain the liquid from the bag and set the tofu into a skillet at about 300 degrees. You want to brown the tofu on as many sides as possible because it gives great texture. I left it in the skillet for probably a total of 15 minutes, perhaps a few minutes more. It depends on your skillet though, and how brown you would like it to be. We did get it a good toasty brown on at least a couple sides.
In a salad bowl, put the greens, and then add your sunflower seeds, and the cranberries. Put the tofu on top of everything and add your favorite salad dressing. Since we were out of the blush wine vinaigrette, we used a pear vinaigrette I picked up at Whole Foods and it paired up really really well.

In the end, it was one of the best salads I’ve had in a VERY long time and Eli really enjoyed his as well. So give it a try sometime, and let me know what you think, or what you change to make it better!

Happy eating (healthy).

Hats off to hot dogs

•October 26, 2010 • 3 Comments

When I was a little kid I remember liking hot dogs. But then somewhere along the way I lost my taste for them and rarely would eat one unless it was battered and baked (aka, corn dogs). But as of late I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the idea of the hot dog. It seems that the best places only serve the all beef ones, so I guess that’s what I prefer.

Well, for anyone in this area, you’re likely familiar with Brevard, NC. I talked about Brevard in my last post, and since we go there somewhat regularly, it was inevitable that it be mentioned again. In Brevard is a quaint little soda shop (also mentioned in my last post) – Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop. Next door is the perfect match for the soda shop – D.D. Bullwinkel’s General Store. Clever, I know.

It was recommended that we visit Rocky’s for lunch one day, and so we first went there a month or so ago. But just this past week, during a trip to our favorite framing and art supply store in Hendersonville, we decided to detour to Brevard for lunch. Now, since I’m not one very ‘experienced’ in the art of hot dog, I don’t know how most people eat them. I used to always just have ketchup and mustard – nothing more and surely nothing less. But Eli is always a bit more creative with his dogs, so I decided to take inspiration in this and tried their hot dog with coleslaw (homemade of course). The first thing about Rocky’s is that they use New England style buns… which is one of those things you don’t realize you’re missing until you haven’t had them. I know, I said that last time, but it’s worth repeating because it’s fabulous! YUM. I love love love them. They toast them just right and then cradle the delicious dog inside. Personally I’m a big fan of a hot dog without that “crunch” of the casing, one that is tender and juicy, and these are it! Oh so delicious! The coleslaw is the perfect edition to the hot dog I found out, with just enough crunch and sweet flavor to make it divine. I know, who knew hot dogs could be divine?! And yes, I do realize that I said I hate the crunch of casing but love the crunch of coleslaw, but it’s a totally different crunch, so work with me here!

But it’s not just about the hot dogs at Rocky’s. I have been told the rootbeer floats are wonderful, the shakes delicious, and more. But for me, the other super duper perk which I touched on last post is the tomato pickles. They use these fabulous green tomatoes and I guess soak them in a pickling juice of some sort, and then serve them up when they’re tasty to perfection. And OH they are! They’re like the best pickles I’ve ever had… but better. Pickles are one thing I’ve loved for years. I remember going to a hot dog joint in CT with my friend Shellie and taking the little ketchup cups and filling them with pickles instead. Anyway, this time we recalled how delicious the pickles were, so we were sure to get a side of them. We asked if they sell them to go, and apparently you can get a full gallon jar for $11. Not bad in my opinion, but nonetheless the budget said “no” this time. Here’s to next time. Merry Christmas me – have some pickles. Haha.


So I can’t recommend this place highly enough. But just beware… if you go on the weekend and the weather is perfect, then Rocky’s will no doubt be packed. But it’s totally worth any wait there may be. And if you have to kill time waiting for a table then by all means, get some fun candies or browse through Bullwinkel’s next door. And FYI, the prices are great too – one hot dog with chips and pickles was like $5 or $6 which is pretty good, and you can add a second dog for around $2.

In closing, all I can say is… I really hope we’re going back soon!

Travel Foods

•October 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’m going to try to remember to do a few posts about foods that we get when we travel because to me it’s one of the most important parts of taking any kind of trip… even if the trip is ALL about food! It’s the best time for everyone to come together and talk and share and just have some laughter and lighthearted fun. I think the dinner table (and breakfast table and lunch table and snack table, etc) is one of the most important places for families to meet. We put aside our differences, we put away our frustrations, and we just share the simple joys of a meal that makes us smile. At least, that’s how I picture it in my mind, lol.

Anyway, back on track here.
One of our recent favorite places to go is a great little town in North Carolina called Brevard. Eli’s parents both went to college there which is neat…  they have a great homey atmosphere… and it’s just a comfortable place to be. For us it’s about an hour drive through some really pretty mountains, so we are usually eager to go up there. As a matter of fact, we were just talking today about how much we want to go back even though we were just there a couple weeks ago. Brevard, for those who don’t know, is also home to the white squirrels… they’re quite the little celebrities up there. Legend has it that they originated from a circus truck and wound up breeding. The official story is much longer than that, and you can read it here: http://brevardnc.org/white-squirrels/.

There are many things we love to do when we go to Brevard. One is to go to this awesome antique shop. It’s 3 floors, they have TONS of awesome old stuff, and they also have lots of architectural components from the past – very cool! We also like to browse art galleries and just take in the wonderful mountain air. There is also an awesome little diner of sorts called Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop that we went to last time. They had fabulous hot dogs, and – YAY – they use the New England style hot dog buns! For those of you who haven’t had them, trust me, there’s a huge difference. They’re fabulous and I hadn’t recognized that I missed them up until I finally had one again at Rocky’s. Another awesome food there is the tomato pickle… I know it sounds odd but if you like pickles then  you would love them. I wanted to take home a full jar they were so delicious!

Lastly, we usually end our Brevard trips with a little excursion to Kiwi Gelato on Main Street – www.kiwigelato.com.  I can’t tell you how much I adore this place. Normally I wouldn’t even try to eat ‘gelato’ because I know that it’s usually with a dairy base and I’m lactose intolerant, so I avoid it. But here they serve a fruit sorbetto with no dairy. Make no mistake, it’s nothing like the fruit sorbetto that you get at Whole Foods or other ice cream shops. This has the same exact texture of the regular gelato, but without the dairy.

I have such a hard time picking a favorite, so I won’t. Their flavors change fairly often and they roll in some cool seasonal flavors which is awesome. I’ve so far tried the kiwi, melon, forest berry, watermelon, and chocolate covered strawberry. I’ve also tried a tiny tiny little taste of a couple that Eli has gotten as well – a caramel and a chocolate.

I think my favorite thing about Kiwi Gelato is the customer service. The owners/workers are always so friendly. This past time I had forgotten cash (note: they only take cash) but they let us eat and relax and then later Eli went to the atm for me to pay. I thought that was really cool. But beyond all of that is the fact that you can sometimes put in special requests… and they try their best to actually fill them. I had never tried the chocolate covered strawberry, for instance, and they said to Facebook them when I was coming next and they would try to have it ready… so I did, and they made a batch that very weekend we went up there. Very cool! And let me say – VERY delicious!!

On the left is my favorite mixture: melon and kiwi. The kiwi tastes quite literally like you’ve been physically assaulted by an actual kiwi. The flavor is so intense that I was surprised at first but am SUPER in love with it! The melon is somewhat sweeter and milder, so they make this fantastic pair. YUM!
In the middle is one of Eli’s: the pairing of chocolate and caramel which he LOVED. There’s no mistaking that caramel flavor either, it’s so complete and rich. Double YUM!
Lastly, on the right, is my forest berry with a little bit of kiwi as well. (Just can’t resist that kiwi!).

In the end, I’m drooling for some more gelato even now and I cannot wait to go back up to Brevard, because it’s completely and utterly worth it for the food alone!

Sweet Potato Goodness

•October 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

So let’s kick this thing off with our dinner/dessert tonight. Technically it was more dessert than anything, but we ate it at dinnertime, so it can go either way. 

As you might know, I love picking apples this time of year. I get them all at Sky Top Orchards just over the border in NC. It’s a great place… they have so many kinds of apples and it’s at the top of a mountain (hence the name) so the views are spectacular. I would recommend going here to anyone within a couple hours who loves apples. Not only do they have lots and lots of apples and beautiful views, but they also have fudge, fudge/candy covered apples, fresh apple cider, apple pies, apple cider slushies (YUM!), and apple cider donuts (double YUM). 

 Well, we got to go a couple weeks ago, and I finally got around to chopping and cutting and getting apples set for the freezer until I make my apple butter, apple sauce, apple pie, apple jelly, and anything else apple I find myself inspired to make. I saved a few apples to the side that were fantastically delicious (We got red delicious, gala, jonagold, Cortland, and golden delicious), and decided I’d make us a special treat today. But there’s more. Just last week my best friend of 17 years came to visit, and we went driving up to Brevard where we love to get away for a few hours now and then. On the way, we stopped at a farm stand on the side of the road, and we got peaches (I hate peaches but I use them in my jellies/jams) and I got some local sweet potatoes.

 That leads me to this awesome recipe I found in a little cookbook from Mast General. It’s called “Old-Fashioned Apple recipes”, and I took one out of it to use. Of course, I pretty much changed all of it to suit us, and the tools that we have at the studio, so here’s the recipe for what I’ve named “Sweet Potato Goodness”:

Sweet Potatoes, apples, and marshmallows... YUM!

 I used:

3 medium to large apples, about 2.5-3 cups worth, peeled and sliced.

2 large sweet potatoes

¾ cup brown sugar

½ tsp salt

About a dozen regular marshmallows (you can add more if you want to)

1-2 tspn cinnamon

Butter

Poke holes in the sweet potatoes, wrap in damp paper towel, and put in the microwave. Most microwaves have the ‘potato’ setting, so set it on that, it should work fine. While they’re in the microwave, get a couple tablespoons of butter melting on low in a large skillet. Once the butter is melted, lay out your apple slices in there and let them just simmer a little. Sprinkle with 1 tspn cinnamon, the brown sugar, and a few small pats of butter on top. Cover and let them keep warming. You’ll notice the longer they stew in there, the softer they will become, and you can move them around the skillet to bring the flavors together a few times.

 When the a knife will go all the way in the potatoes without resistance, you will know they are done, so they can come out. If you need to do it longer, it’s no big deal, just send them through half the amount of time. Once they’re done, slice them in half and scoop out the inside into a bowl. After you’ve put about half of them in the bowl, add a few pats of butter, about a tablespoon. Also, add a few broken up marshmallows, this will let them melt as you put the rest of the hot potato insides on top of them.

 Once the potatoes are out, mash them up to the consistency that you like, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, ¼ to ½ tspn depending on how much you like, and mix well. Set them aside. When the apples are very soft and mixed well with the sugar and cinnamon, turn off your skillet.

 In a small container (or bowl or pie plate, etc), scoop some or all of the sweet potato mixture and smooth out. Break up the rest of your marshmallows into smaller pieces, and press on top of the potatoes, to evenly distribute. Then spoon on some (or all) of your hot apple mixture. Put the container in the microwave for about a minute to soften the marshmallows and when it comes out, just mix it up a little bit.

 Serve, and enjoy!