Tag Archives: cocoa powder

Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

L1050494A few years ago, I turned a corner and started enjoying going to the gym. Like a lot of people, I used to dread it. Now, I actually feel better on the days when I’ve gone to the gym. Sadly, I don’t think I’m in much better shape than I used to be (damn you peri-menopause!) but my mental health has improved, thanks to my regular workouts. I love starting my day by pushing myself physically and increasing the dopamine that my 40-year-old brain produces.
L1050483I’m in week 4 of my food regimen, and so far it’s going pretty well. I haven’t felt too terribly deprived, despite the fact that I work at a bakery and smell cakes and cupcakes all day long. I really enjoy creating healthier versions of some of my favorite sweets. That definitely helps ease the pain of not being able to eat sugar. These cookies are a new favorite of mine, and I think most people would be surprised to learn that they are sugar-free, grain-free, and made with just a few simple healthy ingredients.
L1050499Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place mashed bananas in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, place 1″ rounds of batter onto lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10 minutes.
5. Let cookies cool completely. Can be refrigerated up to one week or stored in freezer.

Nutella Scones

DSC_4843I was feeling very discombobulated last week.  Serving on jury duty in the middle of Long Island meant I had a two-hour commute every morning and evening.  I would leave home at 7 a.m. and not return until almost 7 p.m.  For some people, this might describe a normal day.  Regardless, it is a long day and doesn’t leave much time, if any, for self-care, exercise, etc.  Up until my first week of jury duty, I had been cherishing the fact that I was finally making self-care a routine part of my day.  I recently experienced a mental shift:  instead of dreading yoga, I was looking forward to going to classes twice a week.  So two weeks of not having time for this (or any exercise) left me feeling very frazzled and anxious.

By the time I got home at the end of last week, I realized I was experiencing emotions I hadn’t had in almost 6 weeks.  Nothing seemed to sate my overwhelming feelings—I wanted to eat garbage and didn’t care what it tasted like.  I tried a few bites of several different things but nothing seemed to fill the void.  That should have been my first sign that something was off.  I felt like a foreigner in my own body.  I thought some mindless television might do the trick, but I tried a few of my favorite sitcoms and that didn’t numb the pain either.  It’s a very helpless sensation when you can’t figure out what it is you need in a specific moment.  It’s like trying to figure out what a crying baby needs, but you’re the baby and you feel like you should know what your 38-year-old self needs or wants.  I eventually curled up in bed with a book and decided to take some deep breaths to quiet my mind.
DSC_4819I reminded myself that the crazy two weeks were over and that my normal schedule would resume next week.  I really wanted to beat myself up for feeling so thrown-off after just two weeks of not having any free time.  But I stopped myself.  Given the circumstances, I think I did a pretty good job of staying centered.  I ate healthy and focused on maintaining a positive outlook despite the horrible things I was listening to every day in the courtroom.  I went to yoga class Saturday morning and, man, was it hard.  I felt a lot of anger doing many of the poses, but I told myself I was detoxifying all of the feelings from the previous two weeks.  I let the anger rise to the surface and then watched it disappear.  And that is one of the things I love so much about yoga:  it forces you to stay present and not react to feelings as they arise.  By the time class was over, I felt reset and ready for the weekend.
DSC_4824I love Nutella, and believe it would taste good on or in almost any baked good, so I was eager to try this recipe.  It’s another one from the Baked cookbook.  I’ve had much success with the recipes of theirs I’ve tried thus far, so I was confident that this would be yet another recipe victory.  However, I thought these were just mediocre.  Although, my disclaimer is that I’m not a huge scone fan so that might be part of it.  Mr. K, on the other hand, loves these scones.  He thinks I am crazy for giving them a so-so rating.  Perhaps they just needed to be slathered with a bit more Nutella and I would have come around on these.  Let me know what you think!
DSC_4827Nutella Scones
Adapted from Baked Explorations

Yield:  6 to 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until combined.
3.  Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and cream.
5.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together.  Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands.  Add the toasted hazelnuts and knead gently  to incorporate.
6.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 6 to 12 inches and spread 1/4 cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern.  Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high.  Do not overwork the dough.
7.  Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
8.  Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.  Do not overbake.
9.  Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble the Nutella Scones
1.  Heat the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds on high.
2.  Pierce the tops of the scones a few times with a fork.  Use a spoon to drip the warm Nutella in a zigzag pattern over the tops of the hot scones.
3.  Transfer them to a refrigerator to set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.

Homemade Nutella

DSC_4451Mr. K and I have been trying to conceive for almost a year now.  Anyone who has struggled with this knows that it can be an emotional rollercoaster.  At our highest point, we were ecstatic with the news that I was officially pregnant (I miscarried six weeks later), and our lowest point was my 3-day hospitalization from a procedure that went horribly wrong.  And there have been many numb days in between.  When we first started trying, we were extremely confident that it wouldn’t take us long to become pregnant.  I’m sure that’s what everyone thinks in the beginning.  And although we remain cautiously optimistic (my husband likes using that phrase), we have had many discussions about what our lives might look like if we aren’t successful:  We’ll travel more!  We can move to another country!  We’ll get a dog!  Or a cat!  And yet.
DSC_4415And yet I can’t help but wonder about everything we will miss out on if it turns out we can’t have kids.  I know, I know, there are pros and cons to both lifestyles.  And part of me is still scared to death to have children.  I have read so many articles about parents being less happy than childless couples, marriages being strained due to kids, and financial stress due to all of the added expenses of raising a child.  And yet.  You can’t fight biology.  I want to have a child.  I was listening to a Slate podcast on parenting last week (iTunes started downloading this podcast onto my computer a few weeks ago and I didn’t question it) and one of the hosts was talking about her nightly routine.  She stated that between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. it was complete chaos in her house.  Dinner has to be made, homework has to be supervised, baths have to be given, stories have to be read, and then bedtime arrives.  As stressful as all of it sounded, I found myself wanting that chaos in my life.  I thought to myself, “What are all of us childless adults doing with our time?”  It all just seemed so pointless without kids in the picture.  Ok, maybe not pointless.  But I definitely have days when it all feels meaningless.  There’s just something about living for another human being that sounds so freeing.  You can’t be stuck in your head all day long when you have a child to take care of.  As Louis C.K. once said, “There’s no time for depression when you have kids.”  Ok, there must be a little time.
DSC_4419Why have I never made homemade Nutella before?  It’s sooooo easy, dear readers!  I have loved Nutella ever since first discovering it while studying abroad in England.  I think I’ve eaten my weight in banana-Nutella crepes over the years.  But guess what?  This version is EVEN BETTER.  Without additives and chemicals masking the flavor, the milk chocolate and hazelnuts are much more intense.  And it doesn’t have that waxy residue that the store-bought stuff has.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, this would make a nice homemade gift.  Your Valentine will be forever grateful.
DSC_4432Homemade Nutella
Adapted from The Splendid Table

1 cup hazelnuts
12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little.
3.  Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible. Let cool completely.
4.  Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool completely.
5.  In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste.  Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
6.  Add the melted chocolate and blend well.
7.  Place into airtight container.  Mixture will keep at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Chocolate Cream Pie

DSC_4180Last week, the family I used to nanny for invited Mr. K and I over to dinner.  They have two sweet and bright young boys that I am extremely fond of, and it had been almost a year since I saw them last.  I started as their nanny when the boys were 6 months and 3-1/2 years old, respectively.  I worked for them for almost two years, and over the course of those two years I came to view them as my extended family.  The 6-month old is now almost 6 YEARS old.  He has independent thoughts and asks questions like, “Can you come back over again tomorrow?” and “Do you have a baby yet?”  Of course, with the latter comment, I just smile awkwardly and say, “Let’s draw something together!”  I also have great affection for the boys’ parents.  They both have extremely stressful jobs and yet give themselves tirelessly to their kids whenever they have a free moment.  The mother, in particular, is a woman whom I have much respect for.  I learned a plethora of things from talking to her and observing her as a mother.
DSC_4158I was reluctant to become a nanny, but I had a hard time finding a job after graduate school and so I took the position.  Whenever someone asks me about my experience as a nanny, I always respond that it’s a lot harder than it looks.  I gained much more respect for parents in general as well as for child-care workers.  But another thing happened.  By becoming part of this family and seeing a different style of parenting from the way I was raised, it helped heal the wounds I had leftover from my upbringing.  I had always been fearful that I wouldn’t be a good mother and therefore had no interest in having children.  At the end of the two years, I left the position knowing, feeling, that I was a changed person.  For the first time in my life, I saw that being a parent could be an enriching experience.
DSC_4148I volunteered to bring dessert to dinner last week.  I wanted to make something somewhat whimsical that the boy’s might like as well.  Cupcakes were out of the question (I am about as anti-cupcake as they come, unless they are the heavenly cupcakes from Broadway Baker).  This Chocolate Cream Pie sounded delicious and as my readers know, I am a sucker for all things chocolate.  If you’ve never made a cream pie before, this is a straightforward recipe to start with.  Most cream pies have three separate components and this one is no different:  a crust, filling (or pudding), and whipped topping.  I didn’t have any whole milk on hand, so I substituted 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 heavy cream and it worked just fine.  This recipe will satisfy any chocolate lover.  The coarse sea salt sprinkled on top not only prevents the pie from being too sweet, but deepens the flavor of the overall chocolate.
DSC_4170Chocolate Pudding Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

Yield:  Makes 8 to 10 servings

For crust
1-1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (I scraped out the filling of OREOs and used the wafer cookies)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

For filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

1.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Stir together crumbs, butter, sugar and salt and press on bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie pan.  Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.
3.  Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then slowly add milk, whisking continuously.  Bring to a boil over moderate heat, continue whisking, then reduce heat and simmer (continuing to whisk) for one minute.  Filling will be thick.
4.  Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter and vanilla.  Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.
5.  Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.
6.  Just before serving, beat cream with sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spoon on top of pie.
7.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder over whipped cream.
8.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel over pie (optional).