Valentine’s Day Chocolate Bag of Treats

chocolate bagsHere is one of the all-time great Valentine’s Day recipes. I actually made these for the first time years ago, long before I really got into cooking, so although  it might look like it’s hard to prepare, it really isn’t…and it’s a lot of fun!

1. Get a few coffee-bean bags from your grocery store. You need bags that are lined with a plastic coating so when painted with chocolate, you can peel them off easily. Cut the coffee bags so they are about 3-5 inches tall.

2. Then, in a double boiler over low heat, melt 2-3 cups of semisweet chocolate morsels.

3. Lay the bag in its side and with a small pastry brush, starting at the bottom, paint the melted chocolate over the entire interior of the bag. Use plenty of chocolate to get a nice thick coating, which will make it less likely for the chocolate to break when peeling off the bag.

4. Stand the bags up and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. They can be left in there until you need them.

5. When the chocolate is nice and hard, starting in one corner, gently peel away the bag. Use a scissor to cut the paper off as you peel it…it just makes it easier.strawberries and bags

6. Melt some more chocolate and dip strawberries, sliced bananas and whatever else your significant other loves into the melted chocolate. As an added touch, you can also melt some white chocolate and use that to drizzle designs on the dipped treats. Lay them down on waxed paper to dry and harden.

Then just fill the bags with the treats and your favorite candies and you have an incredibly impressive presentation for your loved one on Valentine’s Day. It sure sealed the deal for me!

Cheesecake Lollipops – A Dessert to Impress Your Friends!

I was invited to a dinner the other night and had to bring something, so I decided to make these again and they were such a huge hit, I have decided to repost the recipe. These lollipops are delicious, impressive and, best of all, deceptively easy to make. You can make your own cheesecake (here is a great recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine), but even a good store-bought cheesecake works well for this enticing dessert. First, put the cheesecake in the freezer until it gets nice and firm. Then remove it and scoop golf ball size hunks out of the cheesecake and quickly roll them into balls before they start to melt. Insert a lollipop stick (I opted for long wooden skewers for an impressive display) into each ball and pop them in the freezer for around 2-3 hours until frozen.

While the lollipops are freezing, prepare your toppings by crushing oreos, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, malted milk balls, coconut or toffee. Almost anything can be used, and it’s great to mix and match the flavors.

The next step is whip up a simple chocolate ganache, which is just a mixture of equal parts chocolate and heavy cream, where you bring the cream to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the bowl of chopped chocolate and whisk it together.

When the lollipops are frozen solid, take them out of the freezer, dip them in the ganache, roll Cheesecake Lollipops SHARPthem in your favorite toppings and then immediately stick them back in the freezer to set (you should lay them on parchment paper so they don’t stick)…that’s it.

Just take them out of the freezer about 30 minutes before your ready to serve them (make sure they’re served very cold or they will start to drop off the sticks!) and arrange them like a bouquet of flowers…I guarantee your friends will be impressed!

Incredibly Addictive Caramel Corn with Peanuts

The only problem with this recipe is that, no matter how much you make, it’s not enough. This recipe makes about 8-10 normal servings or 1 incredibly large one. A few tips…stir the sugar with a wooden spoon as the melted sugar crystals won’t stick to wood as readily as metal; if you have trouble cleaning the saucepan, just boil some water in it and the sugar crystals will dissolve; and if you’re thinking about sharing your caramel corn with someone, think again, ’cause, like I said,  there is never enough.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!

The Best Chocolate Chip CookiesThis is, without a doubt, the best chocolate chip cookie I (or anyone else) ever tasted! The recipe has been around for awhile…I believe  it was originally printed in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, published in 1985, and named for a restaurant in Philadelphia that was popular in the 1970’s.  It has just the right balance of flavors and textures. I don’t love most oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because it seems the oatmeal flavor is usually overwhelming and the texture is dry, but not with these cookies. They’re crispy on the edges and moist and chocolatey in the center…the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk. One of the best things about this recipe is how well the dough freezes. I chill the dough a little and roll it into 1½” diameter logs (like the ones you can buy in the supermarket), wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. Then, when the urge strikes, I just slice off a few 1″ pieces and pop them right in a 350˚ oven, and you have fresh, hot homemade cookies in about 12 minutes. You can also roll them into 1″ balls, freeze them and stick them right in the oven when you absolutely, positively immediately need a hot, homemade killer chocolate chip cookie.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

Killer Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

The bananas on the trees are ripening quickly and we are awash in a plethora of fruit, so we’re scrambling to come up with great banana recipes. Ripened bananas in their skin, wrapped in saran wrap, will keep in the freezer for up to six months for use in breads, cakes and smoothies, but it’s more fun to try and keep up with the rapidly ripening crop (it’s a race we can’t possibly win). Tonight, not only did we dehydrate them for banana chips, but also made this killer Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, a simple recipe that yields a moist, tasty, chocolatey loaf.  You can also add a little cinnamon, rum or vanilla if you like, but there really isn’t any reason to since it is delicious (and addictive…we can’t stop eating it) as is.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

 

Papaya, Banana, Blueberry Yogurt Hawaiian Smoothies

This might be the best smoothie ever made…it’s simple to make, it tastes great and has the consistency of creamy soft serve ice cream. I took fresh picked papayas and bananas, cut them into chunks and froze them overnight. To make the smoothie, put about a cup of frozen papaya chunks, a cup of frozen banana chunks,  6 oz. of  your favorite blueberry yogurt ( I use Dannon) into a blender and add about 3/4 cup of V8 Splash (available everywhere…I use Tropical Blend, but any flavor will do). Pulse the blender for about 30 seconds, give it a quick stir (make sure the blades have stopped!), and repeat a few times. It should be very thick at this point, so to get the perfect consistency, take the top off the blender while it’s running (make sure all the fruit has been pureed before you do this or you may end up wearing some smoothie) and slowly pour in a little more Splash until you see a vortex form in the center-you’ll know what I mean when you see it happen-and the Smoothie will be perfect. If you love peanut butter like I do, you can add a heaping tablespoon (I prefer chunky) and blend for a couple of seconds more…it’s incredible!

Cheesecake Lollipops – Impress Your Friends!

This dessert is delicious, impressive and, best of all, deceptively easy to make. You can make your own cheesecake (here is a great recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine) , but even a good store-bought cheesecake works well for this enticing dessert. First, put the cheesecake in the freezer until it gets nice and firm. Then remove it and scoop golf ball size hunks out of the cheesecake and quickly roll them into balls before they start to melt.  Insert a lollipop stick (you can also use wooden skewers) into each ball and pop them in the freezer for around 2-3 hours until frozen.

While the lollipops are freezing, prepare your toppings by crushing oreos, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, malted milk balls, coconut or toffee. Almost anything can be used, and it’s great to mix and match the flavors.

The next step is whip up a simple chocolate ganache, which is just a mixture of equal parts chocolate and heavy cream, where you bring the cream to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the bowl of chopped chocolate and whisk it together.

When the lollipops are frozen solid, take them out of the freezer, dip them in the ganache, roll them in your favorite toppings and then immediately stick them back in the freezer to set (you should lay them on parchment paper so they don’t stick)…that’s it.

Just take them out of the freezer about 30 minutes before your ready to serve them (make sure they’re served very cold or they will start to drop off the sticks!) and arrange them like a bouquet of flowers…I guarantee your guests will be impressed!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/ganache-frosting-recipe/index.html