Tag Archives: chocolate

Pro-Tip Tuesday: Buy the Oranges, and Make Macaroons too!

Pro-Tip of the Day:
Have you been buying those boxes and bags of oranges on sale at the store?

Next time pick up a bag of coconut flakes and sliced almonds, and you can make this quick, yummy (gluten-free) byproduct treat from in-season fruit!

Just remember to take 30 seconds to grate the rind off before you eat the orange, and you’ll have enough for this recipe. Note: try not to take too much of the white parts (the pith), that’s bitter. Continue Reading

Campfire Cooking Methods

Before more recent whirlwind adventures to a wedding in Vermont, K____ and I took a brief respite to camp in the North Cascades National Park. The votes are in, and the top winning option for next blog post was Campfire Cooking Methods! Special thanks to Logistikris for the unique comment entry of ‘Campfire chocoraspberry cake.’ I’ll try to cover chocoraspberry cake next. We were only there a couple nights, or: “as long as my back will take tent sleeping,” and “that’s how long the giant cooler of ice and frozen meats lasts to a safe-ish temp.”

Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.
Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.

Method Part 1: Pack it!

If you were a compulsive planner like me, you might list what you’d like to eat on your camping trip, and portion out ingredients as you pack up the accompanying junk food (in my house any road trip merits a hiatus from healthier eating). This time, I had in mind..

  • hot toddies
  • chocolate raspberry cake
  • marshmallows
  • hot dogs
  • and traditional sausage-bacon-egg-potato breakfast foods

In retrospect, it was too much in one night’s work to prep everything and also make spam musubi, but yeah, that’s what I did (even with lots of help from K___). If you are NOT a compulsive planner like me, I leave it to you to wing it like you do (i.e. like a BOSS). Really, I only measured things out for the first two items listed there, and I cheated with box chocolate cake mix. It’s camping, not the Iron Chef. I also made a little mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which came in handy as dressing and marinade.

Method Part 2: Fire, not for backpacking -especially in high-fire-prone areas.

With the exception of marshmallow roasting, you want a low, even fire with plenty of coals. K____ and I treated fire-building like a team sport, with him as captain. We spread the logs out pretty wide for cooking, to make room for an even surface for the tools. Want more on this? Let me google that for you... Don’t forget to read up before you are out of cell phone reception zones. Obvi, if you are backpacking, all this “camping” is a whole different ball game.

Method Part 3: Tools
Here’s what the latest full-scale carried-a-little-too-far Wong Way of camping entails for cooking tools:

Tool 1: Cast Iron Skillet
-Needs: high temp cooking oil or butter, don’t forget the metal flipper!
-Good for bacon and all-purpose random cooking, especially when you snag the last possible campsite and it turns out to have no standard grill rack.
-Bad for open-flame potatoes.
-Obviously a bad idea for for light-weight packs.

Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.
Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.

Tool 2: Dutch Oven
-Good for making cake, probably good for a lot else too, like stew. It really holds the heat in.
-Bad for your back. This thing is so heavy. At least that means the squirrels can’t mess with it, only Yogi Bear.
-ditto on the backpacking

Tool 3: Aluminum Foil
-Good for..tubers, if you can get coals. Much better to wrap potatoes than expose them in cooking on a skillet. It was useful to shape handles on top of them for easier maneuvering.
-Also good for fashioning makeshift plateware and utensils, for that one time when you forgot sporks.

If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.
If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.

Tool 4: Percolator. Just add water!
-Good for coffee, tea, hot cocoa
Hot toddies (basically, pre-mix everything but the water and lemon).
-Easy mac & cup noodle.
-Thermos + raw chicken noodle soup to cook over time.

Surprise Winning Tool: Percolator?!
That’s right, folks. While I’m grateful for the delicious breakfast K___ served up via skillet, and the fully-baked cake thanks to how well the dutch oven holds heat in, the percolator was the one I was most grateful to have, both to stave off a caffeine headache in the morning with coffee, and to keep me really cozy in the evening with hot toddies. It also felt like the easiest, most versatile one with endless possibilities. Maybe my opinion is swayed too strongly by how precious having water was on this trip since they hadn’t turned on the taps on the North Cascades yet. Oops.

Second Runner Up: Dutch Oven! This one is getting googled some more for the next camping trip. I’d probably rather just cheat directly with hot cakes’ take ‘n’ bake for smaller portion sizes on cakes, but I think you might get a good stew out of the dutch oven instead. They even come with campfire directions!

Safety Notes: on meat thermometers and a giant cooler on wheels..
-It’s definitely good to not poison yourself (see: safe cooking temps for meat).
-Tried to store meats on the bottom of the cooler, separated by ziplocs for extra OCD-style care.
-Tried to cook the more salmonella-prone items first, like eggs.

Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent.
Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent. Salud!

Questions? Comments? As usual, post below!

Hot Chocolate Cookies

At my day job, it is the office tradition to bring in treats when it’s your birthday. I spent the first four years feeling indignant about this, and evading it since I’ve always been gone on my birthday. However, I have finally come around to it, figuring at least I am not forced to eat mediocre cake I don’t like on my birthday. I was quite late in the delivery too, but felt it an opportunity to take a stab at this hot chocolate cookies recipe I saved over the holidays. Like people who have a favorite animal, once friends and family find out I like hot chocolate, I was gifted enough hot chocolate to develop diabetes –which is where this recipe randomly found online comes in as another way to use it up.

This is the neatest picture of the finished product. Note the funky one hiding in the back -that was one of my marshmallow-inside attempts.
Hot chocolate cookies: this is the neatest picture of the finished product. Note the funky one hiding in the back -that was one of my marshmallow-inside attempts.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

makes 24 large cookies (I did a half portion of this, full portions for 24 cookies is listed below)

Ingredients
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup hot chocolate mix
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 3/4 cup flour (i think I had a mix of whole wheat and white flour, or some miscellaneous powder found in my pantry..)
1 cup chopped milk chocolate chips
1 cup Marshmallow Bits (didn’t have those delightful dehydrated ones, just used chopped up regular marshmallows)

Steps
Preheat oven to 350
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream butter and brown sugar together with whisk for about 1 minute until combined. Add in hot chocolate and continue mixing.
Add in eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until incorporated.
Add in salt, baking soda and flour. Mix until just combined.
Finally, add in milk chocolate and Marshmallow Bits, stirring until evenly mixed in.
Drop by heaping tablespoon onto lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are set and slightly golden. Top with marshmallow bits in last 2 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
*Store airtight for up to 3 days.

mix, clump, bake, enjoy.
mix, clump, bake, enjoy.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars
This is the first time I tried this recipe, so besides it still having the basic steps of a chocolate chip cookie, it was quite novel indeed. The marshmallows were really entertaining to see in the oven too, since they got all puffed up. The end result made me sad since the marshmallow puffiness collapsed, and made the cookies appear quite messy, but it was still fun to have an outside addition that made it more ‘hot chocolatey’.
Likelihood of Repeat: 65%
This is definitely worth trying again when I have dehydrated marshmallows in stock, although maybe by then I will no longer have these 4 canisters of hot chocolate powder to deal with. It also seems like a good seasonal recipe to ring in the Fall. I also tried being clever by encasing lumps of marshmallow inside the cookie dough for a marshmallow inner filling, but those did not turn out as well. I think they just ended up melting into their component sugar parts..

HotChocolateCookies_Complete
nom nom nom. double-processed foods: are they twice as tasty?

The original recipe also called for an electric mixer, which I thought was unnecessary, although it also had a recipe for delicious frosting, which others may want to try. I used to be fond of saying that chocolate chip cookies are the only cookies worth making, and I’m afraid some days I still feel that way (especially if you put walnuts in them). This was no exception, but then I was unable to explain why I couldn’t stop eating the cookies when they came out…
The office kitchen space rating is: yum. As in, it disappeared pretty fast –but that’s not such a high bar..

P.S. Thanks to my friends who have gifted me hot chocolate in the past. It is a good thing to never run out of something you love to drink.

Almond Florentines

Cookies Part 3 of 4.

almond florentine: the orange zest makes all the difference
almond florentine: the orange zest makes all the difference

(originally from a Food Network recipe, with minimal substitution)

Makes: ~5 dozen 3-inch Florentines, or 2 1/2 dozen 6-inch Florentine
Total Time: 1 hr 35 min
Prep 30 min
Inactive 45 min
Cook 20 min

I first had these a few years ago at Zeitgeist Kunst & Kaffee, a coffee shop in downtown Seattle near my work, and it lit up this light bulb in my head that insisted I look it up to make myself an infinite supply. It has a great crunch, and the orange zest with chocolate drizzle is just the right combination.

Ingredients
* 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces) (I still have no idea what unblanched almonds would be, I just buy sliced almonds, however they come)
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (can substitute: almond flour, same amount)
* Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (I use kosher salt without much consequence)
* 3/4 cup raw sugar
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Topping, optional (but why would you ever skip it):
* 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

Directions
– Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
– Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
– Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, ~30 minutes.
– Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 to 3 inches (shrink accordingly with cookie size) between each cookie since they spread.
– Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

“Optional” chocolate topping:
– Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl (or smaller saucepan).
– Bring a (larger) saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.
-Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired (after trial with chopsticks, metal spoons, and other options, a rubber spatula works best).
– Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

Storage tip: Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.

Note: Special thanks to my chocolate-know-how friend for advising that getting any water in the smaller sauce pan (including a porous wooden spoon that’s wet), and using any metal for distribution would cool the chocolate too fast.

Today’s Cookie Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars
In my head, this is a big ordeal to make (not especially true), so when I do make them, it still feels novel. Plus, that crunch!
Likelihood of Repeat: 99%
Chocolate, almonds, sugar, and orange zest, yum yum yum! This time I even verified that you can make it with gluten-free flour for your gluten-liberated friends, hooray! Try it with some tea or coffee too.