Mandarin Jelly w/ Chocolate Mousse

The term ‘mandarin’, sometimes called ‘kid-glove oranges’, is characterized by deep orange skin with easy peeling and separation of sections. This popular widely known fruit goes by a variety of names, creating some possible confusion at times as to which plant one is dealing with. Commonly known as mandarin in much of the world, the fruit is most often called tangerine in North America.

The tangerine has a long history. Its name comes from Tangiers in Morocco, the port where the fruit was first shipped to Europe and Florida in the United States in the 1800s. But prior to that, tangerines had been cultivated in China and Japan for over 3,000 years.

This light, summery dessert combines the ever-popular flavor pairing of orange and chocolate. Elegant and easy at the same time. Perfect for a summer dessert!

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Mandarin Jelly w/ Chocolate Mousse
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Instructions
Jelly
  1. Soak gelatin in juice for 10 minutes. Heat until gelatin & sugar dissolve. It is important not to bring to a boil, otherwise everything will deteriorate. Strain & pour into serving molds to 2/3 of the height. Cover jellies & place in the refrigerator.
Chocolate Mousse
  1. IMPORTANT NOTE: This shortcut mousse sets quickly so wait to prepare it when your jelly is set.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa powder & instant pudding powder. Add the heavy whipping cream & mix with an electric mixer on medium-high for 1 minute.
  3. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip & make a large swirl on top of jelly. Garnish with zest if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • I just used some simple syrup to candy the tangerine zest but they are fine just left plain.

Fudgy Valentine Brownie Cake

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

It seems one of the most common symbols associated with Valentine’s Day are heart shapes, used to decorate cards, gift boxes, wrapping paper, cakes, cookies, candies, etc. etc.

Chocolate not only adds a touch of decadence but is one of the quintessential Valentine treats. This little chocolate fudge cake is kind of reminiscent of the ‘hot fudge pudding cakes’ from the 1960’s.  Easy to make, you don’t need any special equipment, just a bowl, a whisk and a few simple ingredients. The big thing is it tastes like pure unadulterated fudge.

Brion & I have never felt the need to give gifts on ‘occasions’ but rather just a card with a loving and sincere verse. As we grow older, it becomes clearer every day, the special privilege is to simply have each other to share life with. This year my valentine card for Brion is this edible chocolate heart. The bonus is I’ll get to share it with him!

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Fudgy Valentine Brownie Cake
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a pot, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat & whisk in sugar. Add eggs & vanilla; whisk well.
  3. Add flour, cocoa powder & salt; whisk just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips & nuts (or seeds).
  4. Bake about 18 minutes. For a real fudgy texture, slightly UNDER BAKE it. This makes it sooo.. good!
  5. Write your valentine greeting on when cooled & give to your special someone.

Krispy Chocolate ‘Eyeballs’/ Halloween Brownie Bites

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

While trick-or-treating has been a tried and true modern Halloween tradition, historians say the origins of kids begging their neighbors for food may date back to ancient Celtic celebrations or even a long-lost Christmas custom. Halloween customs, such as wearing disguises to ward off ghosts and offering food to appease malevolent spirits, were brought to Canada in the mid-to-late 1800s by Irish and Scottish immigrants. North America’s first recorded instance of dressing in disguise on Halloween was in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1898, while the first recorded use of the term trick or treat was in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 1927.

Every Halloween, children on the hunt for candy dress up in costumes, knock on doors and ask homeowners the infamous question: ‘Trick or Treat?’

Lethbridge historian Belinda Crowson said research has confirmed the term ‘Trick or Treat’ was first documented in the Lethbridge Herald on Nov. 4. 1927.

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the homeowners gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

Crowson says Oct. 31 in Lethbridge used to be a big night of pranks, saying kids would take part in ‘gate night’ where they’d remove gates from yards and hide them around the city. The occasional outhouse was also moved on Halloween night, sometimes onto a streetcar track for it to be pushed down the route by the unknowing driver.

Alberta’s known for many things: the Rocky Mountains, the oil industry, the Calgary Stampede. But you wouldn’t think that it’s also home to one of the most beloved Halloween traditions, that is, trick-or-treating.

Having lived in Lethbridge years ago, for about 25 years, I was not aware that the term trick or treat had originated there until I stumbled on it when I was doing some research … who knew!!

Nevertheless, Halloween has rolled around again so here’s a few treats to enjoy.

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Krispy Chocolate 'Eyeballs'/ Halloween Brownie Bites
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Shortbread Crumbs for 'Eyeballs'
Caramel / Chocolate & Rice Crispies
Halloween Brownie Bites
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Crumbs for 'Eyeballs'
Caramel / Chocolate & Rice Crispies
Halloween Brownie Bites
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Instructions
Shortbread Crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, cream together the butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour; using your fingers, work together to a crumbly but moist dough. Place mixture in baking pan and press down with the back of a spoon until firm and smooth. Bake shortbread until cooked but not browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, lift out of pan with parchment paper & cool. When cooled, break into pieces & place in a food processor. Pulse to create shortbread crumbs. Set aside.
Caramel / Chocolate
  1. Place a heavy bottomed, non-stick pot, over a larger pot of boiling water. To the top pot add condensed milk, butter & brown sugar. Stir until combined, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring continuously for a full 5 minutes. Add the milk & white chocolate & continue stirring until melted.
  2. Turn off heat under the boiling water. To the caramel/chocolate add shortbread crumbs & rice crispy cereal. With a rubber spatula, combine mixture.
  3. Keeping the pot over the hot water so the mixture doesn't harden to fast, scoop into small balls to form 'eyeballs. Place on a parchment paper lined tray. The scoop I used made about 44 balls. Press candy eyeballs into chocolate balls. If they aren't sticking well, dip them into a bit of white corn syrup first.
Halloween Brownie Bites
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 30 mini cupcake tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch & salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, beat sugar & eggs on high speed for 5 minutes, until it becomes light & pale in color. Melt the butter & add it along with oil & vanilla. Mix on low until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients, continuing to mix on low speed until combined. Put aside about a 1/4 of a cup of the brownie batter to use for decorating. Place a small scoop of brownie batter in each of the mini muffin cups.
Cheesecake Layer
  1. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar & vanilla extract on high speed for 1 minute. Add the orange food gel & mix until desired color. Then add the egg & mix on low speed. Place a Tbsp of cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter. Add the 1 1/2 Tbsp HOT water to the remaining 1/4 cup of brownie batter & whisk until combined.
  2. Drizzle the brownie batter over the cheesecake batter in 2 circles (per brownie). With a toothpick draw lines from the center to the outside edge, creating a spider web effect.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes or until not a lot of batter remains on a toothpick when tested. Cool on a cooling rack completely. Decorate with Halloween spiders, cats, ladybugs etc. These are nice when wrapped in foil & chilled overnight.

Black Forest Desserts

While the origins of the black forest cake aren’t all that clear, some historians believe that its origins can be traced back to the Black Forest Region of Germany. This part of Germany is well known for its sour cherries and ‘Kirschwasser‘ … a clear cherry brandy.

This iconic creation is a layered confection of a liqueur ‘soaked’ chocolate cake with rich whipped cream and sour cherries between its layers. The liqueur and cherries give the cake an intense and unique fruity flavor. It’s these sour cherries which gave it its German name: Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.

There are many origin stories about the cake. Some sources claim that the name of the cake is inspired by the traditional custom of the women of the Black Forest region, with a characteristic hat with big red pom-poms on top called a ‘Bollenhut’. The earliest published written record of black forest cake was in 1934, by a German confectioner. Today, the cake is well known worldwide and probably one of the most popular cakes in Germany.

Since we just happen to have a nice little sour cherry tree growing in our garden, why not put some of them to good use in these cakes?!

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Black Forest Desserts
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Course dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
  4. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and cherry brandy until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with brandy whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Kirschwasser is German for 'Cherry Water', and while it may be as clear as water, it packs quite a punch.  This double distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries is, more often than not, simply referred to a Kirsch. This 'not too sweet with a subtle cherry/almond flavored' liqueur is a vitally necessary ingredient to make a traditional Black Forest Cake; for that is where both the cake and Kirschwasser hail from...  The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, in southwestern Germany.  

Black Bean Lava Cakes

In a dream world, desserts would be low in calories and fat and eating one cookie wouldn’t tempt us to eat five more.

By now, everyone knows what a molten chocolate cake is (also known as chocolate lava cake). Practically every restaurant has a version of the recipe on its dessert menu. Its basically the richest chocolate cake imaginable, in miniature form. The key is to purposely under bake it so it will reveal the thick, hot fudge-like center that oozes out when you spoon into it.

But, there’s one way to achieve healthier baked goods and that’s to add legumes. Yes, the very same beans that we put in soups, chili, dips and countless savory recipes make surprisingly tasty desserts.

If you’re using beans as a flour substitute, its typically a 1:1 ratio. When it comes to replacing fat ingredients with beans, a little caution is needed. Fats are not only used for flavor but also texture and mouthfeel for dishes. For brownies, you can replace oil with 3/4 as much black bean puree. For cookies, you can replace up to half the butter or shortening with the bean puree. For quick breads and muffins, replace butter or shortening with half as much bean puree. This is only a general guide as other ingredients may need to be altered too. Always good to experiment first.

The end result, of course, with any substitution should not just improve the nutrition content but leave you feeling satisfied and not still craving the decadent variety. We found these black bean lava cakes certainly did that!

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Black Bean Lava Cakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Make flax egg & set aside.
  3. In a food processor, combine black beans, sugar, applesauce, apple cider vinegar & sea salt. Pulse to combine for about 1 minute.
  4. Add rice flour, cocoa powder & flax egg. Process until combined about 30 seconds.
  5. Add baking powder & continue processing for another 30 seconds.
  6. Grease (4) 5-oz. ramekins with oil. Make sure to grease well. Add 1/4 cup batter to each ramekin.
  7. Place a piece of chocolate in center of each & divide remaining batter between the 4 ramekins, spreading evenly.
  8. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Use a knife to loosen edges, then flip ramekins over on to serving plates (they should come loose easily).
  10. If you wish, sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve warm.

Vintage Chocolate Potato Cake

The vegetable cake idea is really not so strange if you consider that most of these dense moist cakes are either spice or chocolate. Who would guess that ‘vegetables’ would be lurking within?

When you think of how many veggies we have incorporated into our desserts, its amazing. Carrot cake is hardly novel having been around for decades but there is also beet torte, zucchini chocolate cake, sweet potato cake or the delicious chocolate sauerkraut cake just to name a few.

The popular chocolate potato cake recipe goes back to the early 1800’s, so its likely the oldest of them all. Like buttermilk, mashed potatoes make baked goods taste better, perhaps because both have the effect of making the cake crumb more tender.

It seems the humble potato is like a blank canvas and wears every role its put in with equal flair. This is a moist, rich cake so icing is purely optional.

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Vintage Chocolate Potato Cake
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan or a 12 cup muffin pan & line the base with parchment paper or paper cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, oil & eggs then potatoes.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom & salt. Alternately add dry ingredients & the buttermilk to the egg mixture, beginning & ending with the dry ingredients; stirring with a spoon or rubber spatula.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30-35 minutes.
  5. Invert the cake onto a rack & allow to cool thoroughly. Transfer to a plate & dust with powdered sugar if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to add either some nuts or raisins for some extra flavor.

Strawberry Rose with Dark Chocolate Pudding

Strawberries — loved for their sweet taste and heart shape, have symbolized purity, perfection, love and passion throughout the ages. It is very common for us to give little thought to where our food comes from and the back breaking labor that it took to get it to our various parts of the country.

Travel can always be filed under the category ‘learning experience’. I find it so important to set oneself outside our ‘bubble’ to fully understand and not become complacent about the many things we take for granted.

Over the years, Brion and I have spent many holiday hours travelling along the Big Sur coast of California, USA. While there we would use Monterrey as our ‘home base’ and make little day trips to the surrounding area. Just inland from Monterrey is the agricultural jewel known as the Salinas Valley. This is one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions of California. Having a unique coastal environment with its western ocean exposure (less than 10 miles away) provides moderate temperatures year round. Warm sunny days and cool foggy nights are the perfect combination for growing strawberries.

I find myself going back to those years I was raised on the farm when we drive along looking at the fields of produce. I have often felt much appreciation and compassion for the farm workers standing, bent over in the heat of the blazing sun for hours tending these crops.

I have many memories of my own parents working long, hard hours to provide for us on our family farm. I am grateful to have learned to appreciate the efforts of others that make life good.

This STRAWBERRY ROSE with DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING  celebrates those wonderful Driscoll strawberries as well as satisfying the chocolate lover.


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Strawberry Rose with Dark Chocolate Pudding

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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American

Servings

Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American

Servings

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chocolate Pudding
  1. Melt chocolate. Whisk together 1/2 cup milk & cornstarch. In a small saucepan, bring remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar, cocoa & salt just to a simmer over medium heat. Add cornstarch/milk mixture; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat & stir in melted chocolate & vanilla. Spoon into serving glasses. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Chill.

Topping
  1. Before serving, hull 16 strawberries by removing the green stem. Take 4 strawberries & cut the top of the strawberries off. These will be used as the center for the roses. For remaining strawberries, slice into 1/8" slices to use for the rose petals.

  2. Begin arranging the sliced strawberries around the pudding making sure the ends of the slices are facing out & extend slightly beyond the rim of the glass. After the first circle of strawberries is placed, begin making a second circle of strawberries but position slightly more forward toward the center of the glass. Continue with a third layer. Once finished, add the cut strawberry to the center & garnish with mint leaves.


Recipe Notes