RSS

Category Archives: chocolates

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios Treats.

cheerio treats2

So the other day, a co-worker of mine said something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be awesome to make Rice Krispies Treats with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios instead of Rice Krispies?” I responded with a resounding “YES!!” and then remembered I had a bag of marshmallows at home just waiting to be used. “I’ll make these tonight!” I declared. So when I got home, I made a beeline for the kitchen and started prepping ingredients. My fiance came home mid-prep, and wanted to go out for a run. So I left the butter in the saucepan (since it had to be melted anyway) and out we went. Upon our return, he noticed the chunk of butter in the pan on the stove, and gave me his classic raised eyebrow “what on earth are you doing now?” look. He was in for a very pleasant surprise.

I started with a box of Chocolate Cheerios and a box of Peanut Butter Cheerios (both of which are delicious on their own, but even better when combined). I mixed them with the marshmallow and melted butter and spread them out into the pan, let them cool, and brought them into work the next day. They were a raging success, and will be made again, I guarantee it.

Cheerios are the new Rice Krispies.

Cheerios are the new Rice Krispies.

We cut them into squares, and found them to be denser then the traditional Rice Krispies version, but the chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow combo was magically delicious, fo’ sho’.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Marshmallow, oh my.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Marshmallow, oh my.

The recipe is very simple. You just sub in Cheerios. But here’s the actual measurements I used, in case you want to give this quick and easy perfect-for-any-party treat a try on the fly.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios Treats.

What you’ll need:

1 bag (10oz) large marshmallows

1/4 cup butter

4 cups Chocolate Cheerios

4 cups Peanut Butter Cheerios

What you’ll do:

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Over low heat, add the bag of marshmallows, and mix until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Cheerios. Pour the marshmallow mix over top, and stir until all the Cheerios are completely coated. Grease a 13×9 baking pan, and spread the mix into the pan. Let cool. Cut into squares. Eat!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Great White Chocolate Debate.

white chocolate

Over the weekend, I took part in WHYY’s 5th Annual Chocolate Tasting. I love WHYY, and have since I was a wee lass, so I’m happy to do anything that promotes them and helps raise money to keep them doing what they’re doing. It’s good stuff, and good people. 

Anyway, this year, I made over 400 Oreo and cream cheese truffles to support the event. I use the term “I made” loosely, as my boyfriend stayed up until almost 1 AM on Valentine’s Day to help me get them all dipped in chocolate and ready to go. He’s a very dedicated and hard-working assistant, not to mention a fast learner. So yeah, I had help.

There were to be two varieties: plain Oreo with milk chocolate coating, and mint Oreo with white chocolate coating. They looked like so:

a team effort.

a team effort.

 

So needless to say, before we let them leave the house, we had to taste them. Being a white-chocolate lover since I received my very first Easter basket, I went for the white, whereas my BF went straight for the milk chocolate, claiming he’s not a fan of white chocolate. That got me thinking – white chocolate really is not for everyone. You never hear someone say “Yeah, white chocolate is just ok.” It’s either “Mmmm!! I LOVE white chocolate!” or “Eww! I HATE white chocolate!” usually accompanied by “It’s not even REAL Chocolate!” Yes, that’s true – white chocolate is basically chocolate with the chocolate removed, which therefore logically speaking would make it not chocolate.

white not-chocolates?

white not-chocolates?

I have a theory though. If we were to globally wage a campaign to change the name of white chocolate to something else – removing the “chocolate” from the name in the same fashion it’s been removed from the confection itself – i think more people would accept it and enjoy it. No, it does not taste like chocolate – and by giving it a name that would lead folks to believe it does can be deceiving, and frankly, turn people off before they even give it a real chance. I think a new name would solve this problem, and give white chocolate the love it rightfully deserves. Of course, I have no idea what that name should be…White Not-chocolate? But that still has “chocolate” in the name itself and also just sounds too negative. White Candy? That’s a little generic and no one will have a clue as to what they’re about to eat. White Cocoa Butter? That’s a little better…but the “cocoa” could still cause confusion. White Sugar Butter? That actually sounds kinda gross. I don’t know….any suggestions? 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cookies and Cream (Cheese) Truffles.

oreo bites3

Yeah, I know – it’s been well over a month since I’ve posted anything…and it’s not like I haven’t been baking. If anything, I’ve been baking more than I have in a long time, what with the holidays and stuff. I just haven’t been writing about it. So, today, I just felt like writing again. So here I am.

I figured I’d ease my way back into blogging with a super easy and super delicious little treat that a friend mentioned to me in passing last month, saying that I should make it as one of my Christmas cookies this year, because it makes a lot of them and it’s easy and everybody loves them. Well, she was right about all of that.

Basically, you take a whole package of Oreos (or faux-reos, which is what I used because they taste the same and in some cases, even better), crumble them all up in a food processor, mix them with one package of cream cheese (but put a small amount of the crumbles aside for sprinkling on top later), and roll them into walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate them for a few hours. When they’re good and cold, take them out, and dip them into melted chocolate, I used unsweetened bakers chocolate. Some people may tell you to use semi-sweet – that’s your call. But truth be told, unsweetened was all I had in the house, so I had to use it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with how this was gonna play out. Anyway, as soon you dip them, sprinkle some of the crushed cookie bits on top, and let them sit for at least another hour.

oreo truffle shuffle.

oreo truffle shuffle.

So, after I let mine sit, I figured I’d better eat one. I was pleasantly surprised – the unsweetened chocolate actually complimented the sweetness of the cookie/cream cheese ball quite well. But I was still concerned. Maybe I just don’t like things as sweet as everyone else? I had so many of them though, I couldn’t just not share them. So I started slipping them into to cookie gift boxes and trays, and you know what happened next? Not only did everyone like them, but each time I gave someone a cookie assortment, they specifically asked me what that one was, and said how fabulous it was. Go figure.

I guess it’s true – what you have really is all you need – especially when it’s unsweetened chocolate.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pumpkin Almond Chocolate Covered Cake Balls (or “How a Cheap Box Cake Became Something Totally Amazing”).

cake balls closeSo, the weekend after Halloween, I was browsing the cheap residual tricks and treats left on the shelves of the store, seeing if there was anything worth spending 92 cents on, when I came across a super discounted pumpkin box cake Yes, folks, a box cake. And guess what? That’s right, I bought it. It was the right price, and truth be told, box cakes do make pretty good cakes. Do I feel like I’m cheating when I make them? A little. But I told myself that this would be completely acceptable in this case, as long as I found something creative to do with it. And, by jove, I think I did.

I decided to bake the cake into two 8″ rounds. I froze one, and crumbled up the other one in a large mixing bowl. Remember that almond butter buttercream I made for the almond cupcakes? I still had about half of that left, so I threw that into the bowl, and rolled the mix into cake balls.

pumpkin + almond = TLF

pumpkin + almond = TLF

Next, I put them in the fridge for a bit, so they solidified a little and became “dippable.” (that might not be a word). Next, I dipped them in melted white chocolate.

the base coat.

the base coat.

I let them sit until the chocolate hardened. Then, I melted some dark chocolate, and drizzled it on top.

the finishing touch.

the finishing touch.

I let the dark chocolate harden as well, then put them back into the fridge for a bit more, to be 100% sure they were good to go. I then removed them, packed them up, and brought them to a party. They truly made the perfect party dessert – easy to transport and easy to eat without a mess! From box cake to beyond!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #10 (The Final Frontier): Frederic Blondeel.

DSC_0926

After Stop #9: Laurent Gerbaud, and having already visited  a total of 5 shops AND various tourist attractions in between, I  walked back to my hotel and considered calling it a day. However, the tour had progressed more quickly than I had anticipated, and it was still rather early.  So, I ate some of the various wares I had accumulated thus far, rested for a few moments, ventured out onto the snow-covered balcony, and did something that has become a kind of tradition when traveling alone – I took a picture of myself with the city as a backdrop.

allow myself to introduce...myself.

allow myself to introduce…myself.

Ok, so granted, you can’t see all that much of the city. But I know it’s there.

I realized at this point, that I wasn’t tired. I’d slept over 9 hours the night before (stupid jet lag catches up on a gal), so I still had a decent amount of energy. I decided to harness it, and make the trek to the final shop on the list –

Stop #10: Frederic Blondeel.

DSC_0927

The walk to Frederic Blondeel was full of the interesting and unexpected; from a giant wooden statue of two mystery animals…

where the wild things are.

where the wild things are.

…to a restaurant I thought had gone bankrupt years ago (at which I was also an employee, back in my college days)…

we're huge in Belguim.

we’re huge in Belguim.

….to not-so-properly-translated-into-English-titled eateries….

what kind of cuisine could they possibly serve?

what kind of cuisine could they possibly serve?

….to the truly awesome in every sense of the word – St. Catherine’s Church.

magnifique.

magnifique.

And to think – I didn’t even need to go out of my way to see any of this.  As I walked around St. Catherine’s, Frederic Blondeel was right in front of me. It was super cute inside –  the décor was mostly earthy , with wooden everything, and splashes of color here and there.

fun sun.

fun sun.

There was even a rather charming seating area off to the left.  But the most important thing, and the reason I wandered all this way to begin with was, of course, the chocolates.

boxes of goodness.

boxes of goodness.

And the moment of truth arrived – what do I choose? I’d already been to 9 shops. 9!! At this point, I wanted something unique, but I also really wanted to sample what the shop had to offer. So, I did what anyone would do in this situation – I went for a mixed bag and just started picking what looked at sounded the best.

DSC_0948

That white powdery ball was a champagne truffle. And it was fantastic.

And there you have it. 10 shops in 2 days.  I came, I saw, I ate Belgian chocolate. I drank Belgian beer.  It was snowing. It was freezing. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life.  :)

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #9: Laurent Gerbaud.

DSC_0905

It was a long walk back from Stop #8, Zaabärand upon further investigation of the map, it appeared that there were many interesting tourist-y spots along the way to the next stop, so I decided to take advantage of this, and explore some of them, such as:

the museum area…

ring wraith?

ring wraith?

…the Place de Palais…

Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel.

Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel.

….and the Parc de Bruxelles.

within the park walls.

within the park walls…

...lived two little cherubs.

…lived two little cherubs.

As the exploratory fun came to a close, I found myself practically right at the entrance of:

Stop #9: Laurent Gerbaud.

DSC_0904

I was in love as soon as I saw this sign on the window. There’s something to be said for good looks. I definitely wanted to know more…

Inside, the fun kept going, as I was greeted by this display:

choco-art.

choco-art.

This place was like my aesthetic heaven. It was colorful, fun, and upbeat; kinda like myself. Plus it was full of chocolate (also kinda like myself at this point). I browsed around, and finally settled on something I’d been seeing at many shops throughout my journey, but that I’d never seen back home – chocolate covered pieces of dried fruit. Being that I love both chocolate and dried fruit, I had to try it. Deciding on what type of fruit was the hard part. After much deliberation, I went with a fruit I don’t see in dried form too often at home – pears.

the perfect pearing.

the perfect pearing.

Well, I was by no means disappointed. The dark chocolate and pears were, as you may have guessed, the perfect pairing.

As I paid for my goods, I came face to face with this glaring declaration on the back wall:

fo' sho'.

fo’ sho’.

And by Jove, it was true. And, quite possibly may have never been truer. :)

Hang in there for the grand finale – the final stop on the tour: Stop #10, Frederic Blondeel: way over yonder in the minor key… 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #8: Zaabär.

DSC_0888

Looking at my map upon exiting Stop #7 (Wittamer), I realized I had a bit of a walk ahead of me. Zaabär was the farthest of all the shops. It was on the other side of the business district. But I’m a walker by nature (not cause I hate ya), so I sucked it up, and strode onward. The walk was really quite nice. I got to glimpse another side of the city – the city center – full of old buildings and new towers, peacefully coexisting side by side, with hundreds of working folks and tourists passing by in a continuous stream. I walked with eyes wide open, taking it all in, including this random tree, in the middle of a city block.

an Ent, maybe?

an Ent, maybe?

I have no idea really what kind of tree it even was – but it definitely struck my fancy. After a few more turns, I finally arrived at…

Stop #8: Zaabär.

DSC_0889

Upon entering Zaabär, I was brought face to face with an area where the chocolate was being made, on display, behind a glass wall for tourists to see.  To the right, was a long corridor, with fun images of chocolate making on the wall.

diy chocolate.

diy chocolate.

At the end of the hall, was the shop itself. Zaabär was clean, and modern, and classy. It reminded me of IKEA. The only thing missing were Swedish meatballs.

affordable solutions for better living?

affordable solutions for better living?

There were people milling around, seriously discussing their pending purchases. This shop was no joke. I wondered around for a bit, poking my nose into all the displays.  They had a giant section devoted entirely to flavored chocolate, some on the rather exotic side. I spied a lavender chocolate, and I was sold. I purchased a cinnamon as well, along with a rose.  It was a very tough decision – they had an amazing selection of some pretty intense flavors. But I was able to eventually narrow it down.

craft chocolates.

craft chocolates.

I also couldn’t resist the truffles…so I picked up a two pack of them, too.

Well, needless to say, this was some good stuff.  It was different  – I’ve never really had chocolate quite like it.  It was like the craft beer of chocolate. Once you try it, you really can’t imagine drinking Coors again (not that I ever did…).

Next up, Stop #9, Laurent Gerbaud: The happiest chocolate shop on earth.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #6: Passion Chocolat.

DSC_0880

Practically dancing as I left Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini, thanks to the disco ball and the “wink,” I twisted and twirled my way right across the street and into the Grand Sablon.  It was beautiful – from the statuary, to the perfectly coiffed gardens, to the enormous old church – the Église Notre Dame du Sablon.

come on in.

come on in.

I decided to take a short break from the tour, and explore the grounds. The light dusting of snow really made it all the more magical.

stone cold and lovely.

stone cold and lovely.

It didn’t hurt that I appeared to be the only person walking the grounds. I guess I get up earlier than most tourists.  I crossed over to take a few shots of the front of the church, and while doing so, I was stopped by a woman and asked for directions – in French. I guess I didn’t look like a tourist after all. :)

Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon.

Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon.

At this point, I realized I had no idea where I was going myself, so I broke out the map and tried to find my next destination:

Stop #6: Passion Chocolat.

DSC_0879

I totally could not find this place. I thought at first I must have passed it and didn’t realize, so I back tracked down the road I had just come from. Nothing. I started wondering if in fact it was located on the other side of the Sablon, so I walked around the church, and headed back down the other side, but not before capturing my favorite picture from the entire trip – the picture I felt captured the classy and whimsical vibe of the city of Brussels  – a red plastic tree “growing” in the small side yard of the old the Église.

i could live here.

i could live here.

The universe must have meant for me to see that image, because immediately after I snapped the photo, I turned around and  there was Passion Chocolat, right behind me. I swear it wasn’t there before. How could I have missed it, with its giant red and gold pyramid at the entrance!

magic pyramid?

magic pyramid?

I walked in, and it was small. And bright. But warm. I liked it. The woman behind the counter was unpacking boxes (I think I may have been the first customer – I swear it was not THAT early).  She stood up and came over when I walked in and said “Bonjour” and asked if I she could help me (in French). I said “Bonjour” back, trying to be polite, and she then launched into something fast and French that I couldn’t understand. I then said, “Je ne parle pas francais,” to which she replied, in English, “you should have said that up front! How was I to know you did not speak French!” She wasn’t necessarily angry or rude, but she did seem to be in a bit of huff, as if this happens often. It took everything in my power not to giggle. I decided to focus intently on the task at hand, which was to select some chocolates for my taste-testing journey.

little shop of chocolate.

little shop of chocolate.

The very first chocolate that caught my eye was a white chocolate pyramid – a small, edible version of the one outside the entrance.  I definitely had to get that. I came to find out later there was a hazelnut ganache on the inside. Mmm hmmm. I selected a few others – one that looked like a chocolate covered orange slice, one dark chocolate with small coconut flakes on top, and a couple more that appealed to me. She packed them in a dainty little bag (similar to the ones I saw in some of the shops the day before – these must be the prime packaging for chocolates in Brussels), and I grabbed a business card, paid and was on my way. I have to say, their logo was definitely my favorite – it fit the name perfectly.

it's all about branding.

it’s all about branding.

I ate the pyramid first, and it was perfect. As a lover of white chocolate, it actually wound up being my singular favorite piece on the tour. The others were delicious too, but the pyramid really made the grade. If I were to create my perfect piece of chocolate, that pyramid would be it.

a wonder of the chocolate world.

a wonder of the chocolate world.

Hang in there and keep on keepin’ on to the next stop on the tour, which, was literally a hop skip and a jump away – Stop #7, Wittamer: where chocolate fantasies come true…

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini.

DSC_0862

After a whirlwind first day of chocolate shop touring, I was able to nap, have a relaxing meal at a small bar/cafe called Au Soleil, which I highly recommend for both its drink selection and cozy and hip atmosphere. Not to mention its nifty wall art:

DSC_0846

talk birdie to me.

After my leisurely dinner (which was a “wrap” – there were only about 5 items on the food menu, with no descriptions – however I was extremely lucky and the wrap turned out to be delicious) and a glass of framboise, I meandered back to my hotel, through the whimsically lit and lively musical streets of a Brussels’ Sunday evening. I slept extremely well, and woke up the next morning, refreshed and ready to take on the next lap of the tour, starting with:

Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini.

DSC_0863

When you walk in to Pierre Marcolini, the very first thing you see is a giant disco ball. That was all it took – I knew I was going to love it here.

disco chocolate.

disco chocolate.

I began strolling around – this place was no joke. The chocolate was clearly high-end. The theme was modern, yet not stuffy – the staff mirrored that as well. I was asked if I needed help multiple times, in french of course. I scoped out the two counters and various wall displays, and realized this was going to be a tough decision.

the great wall.

the great wall.

As if it wasn’t hard enough already, I noticed in the back of the store what appeared to be a staircase…and sure enough, there was a second floor, beckoning me to come and get lost in a whole other chocolate dreamscape.

follow the black carpet stairs...

follow the black carpet stairs…

I followed the pointing hand, as if it had taken over my mind and my will, and went up the stairs to the second floor. I was not sorry.

up and away.

up and away.

I was lost in a dream, only I wasn’t dreaming. But if i were to dream up a chocolate shop, Pierre Marcolini would be it. Still in a haze, I wandered back down the stairs, with empty hands. I had no idea what to get. I wandered over near the counter, when a very handsome young man asked me if needed help. I was instantly brought back down to earth and said, “yes!” even though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted. I quickly turned, and grabbed a package of spiced chocolates that I had my eye on, not wanting him to move on to the next customer (and because they really did look amazing).

spicy.

spicy.

.I decided that I’d also get a few macarons, so I followed my new crush over to the other counter, where he packaged up three macarons I selected to eat later. As I paid for my goods, he began chatting with me in english, noticing first that I was left-handed (just like him, and what seemed to be the majority of people in Brussels, oddly) and asking me where I was from, etc. As he handed me my receipt and bag of earthly delights, he winked. I kid you not – I know what I saw. Practically skipping with glee out the door, I turned back one last time to get a look at the chocolate shop that would become my favorite of the tour, and my favorite Belgian dreamboat. Sigh.

As for the chocolate – it was excellent, as expected. It made it hard to eat plain old American chocolate ever again. Of course I still eat it, but with each bite, I feel a pang of longing for that fine Belgian….chocolate. I was going to say chocolate.

Next up, rather appropriately: Stop #6: Passion Chocolat – love is in the air…

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #4: Chocopolis.

DSC_0828I was starting to grow a tad weary after tour stop# 3, Leonidas, mainly due to the complete lack of sleep the night before, having arrived in Brussels at 6 am from New York, dropped my bags off at the hotel, had a coffee (or three) and breakfast, and dove right into the tour all before 9 am. It was now around 1, and I was quickly losing steam. I considered just returning the hotel at this point, taking a long overdue shower and nap, and heading back out afterwards, but as fate would have it, my proposed stop #4 just so happened to be on the way back to the hotel. And as I walked up to the entrance and was greeted by the large faux chocolate elephant, I realized there was no way I was just gonna walk on by. So, I decided to make one last stop for the day at:

Stop #4: Chocopolis.

DSC_0829

Appropriately named, Chocopolis was big – a chocolate metropolis for sure. I walked in and immediately to the right, were a few gentlemen around a hot chocolate station, sipping cups and chatting away in french. Behind the giant counter in the center, two women were actually making some chocolates, and encouraging folks to gather ’round and watch while they demonstrated their craft.

chocolate theatre?

chocolate theatre?

I grazed around the counter, while a third woman flitted about, tending to customers and asking me if I needed help (in french). Nothing had been calling out my name as of yet, so I declined politely and continued my perusal. It wasn’t until I began cruising the perimeter that I saw it – glowing like a full moon on a dark winter’s night, beckoning me to come closer. As the gravitational pull of awesomeness drew me, I reached up for it, the perfect combination of Belgium’s two greatest natural resources: Chocolate Beer.

the dream we all dream of.

the dream we all dream of.

Now I’ve had chocolate beer before, but it was a chocolate flavored beer – not a beer made out of chocolate. As I picked one up off the shelf, I was momentarily disheartened as I discovered these chocolate bottles were not actually filled with beer. I still thought I’d buy one, just because they were way cool. But as I began walking away from the shelf with bottle in hand, I started having second thoughts. There was no way I was going to eat this entire beer bottle in two days, especially with 6 more chocolate shops to sample! And carting it around Europe for the rest of the week or even eventually back to the states just seemed unrealistic. So, I placed the bottle back on the shelf, and hung my head. While looking down, I happened to notice a shelf of mendiants just below and to the left. I never see mendiants at home, and I loved them when we made them in pastry school, so…I picked out a mixed bag (white, milk, and dark chocolate) and was on my way.

it's in the bag.

it’s in the bag.

There was  even one super cool one that looked all outer spacey. I ate that one first, but all three varieties were slammin’. I just wish I could find mendiants more easily at home in New Jersey. I guess I’ll just have to start making them. I could start the next big dessert craze.

i got this.

i got this.

At this point, not even the best chocolate in the world could keep me awake. As I laid in bed, I drifted off to sleep while visions of fine Belgian chocolates danced in my head. Sweet Dreams, indeed.

Stay tuned for Day 2, which begins relaxed and refreshed at Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini – three floors of “club chocolate”.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 204 other followers

%d bloggers like this: