Double Chocolate Brownies with Pecans

Double Chocolate Brownies w Pecans
If it’s not clear from the title of this post, I did not make any New Year’s resolutions regarding the limiting of desserts. And if I had, I would have fallen off the wagon this weekend.

These brownies are decadent and sweet and dangerously simple to make. I’m usually a little apprehensive when it comes to baking, with all the precise measurements and accurate baking times, but I have made these twice in the last week (one batch is for a friend, I promise!) and both times they came out perfect.

Double Chocolate Brownies with Pecans

Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup pecans (chopped)
  • ½ semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prepare

Pre-heat oven to 350 °F. Prepare a 8″ x 13″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, add oil, sugar and eggs. Beat to combine. In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stirring to combine until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

Place in oven for about 13 minutes or until brownies are starting to set, but are still uncooked. Remove from oven and quickly sprinkle chopped pecans and chocolate chips on top. Press toppings lightly into batter with a spoon.

Return to oven for about 8 additional minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms..
I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I like both separately just fine, but together, it’s something I can’t resist. So when I saw these Peanut Butter Blossoms on a cookie advent calendar, two thoughts came to mind:

Thought #1. Those look delicious and I would like to try making them.

Thought #2. I would also like to meet the ambitious baker who has actually completed a cookie advent calendar. Obviously we would bond instantly over our mutual love of holiday baked goods and I could even help test the recipes (everyone knows calories don’t count in December). It’s a win win for both parties.

So, if you know of someone who has completed a cookie advent calendar, please share. Until then, I’ll have to settle for testing recipes on my own.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • About 35 Hershey’s Kisses

Prepare

Pre-heat oven to 375 °F. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat to combine. Then add the egg and beat until completely combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat until the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet. Use your fingers or the back of spoon and lightly push down on each ball to flatten just a little bit and to form a small indentation for the Hershey’s Kiss.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Quickly place an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each cookie and place back in the oven. Bake for 2 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before enjoying.

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

It’s officially fall and, though the days are getting shorter, I’m loving the crisp mornings and cooler temperatures. It wasn’t always the case, but Autumn has become my favorite season as I’ve gotten older. There are many reasons I love this time of year: the changing leaves, pumpkin spice rooibos tea, rich, slow-cooked meals, boots, cozy sweaters and scarves, roasted butternut squash soup, and the anticipation of winter and the holiday season.

Most of all, I love fall because it reminds me of home and growing up in Indiana. One of my family’s favorite fall activities is apple picking. Each fall we would take many trips north to the apple orchards in Michigan. My mom would always pack lunch and we would picnic at the orchard and then pick apples and drink cider to our hearts’ content. Some of my favorite memories are from these trips.

To kick off the fall season (and indulge my nostalgia), we took a day trip out west and visited the Stribling Orchard and some nearby wineries.

Apple Orchard

Once we arrived, I quickly realized visiting an apple orchard on the first weekend of fall is not the most original idea. The place was packed and I could see why. The orchard is located near the Blue Ridge Mountains and has beautiful views. There are picnic tables throughout the grounds and an on-site bakery that sells apple donuts, turnovers, cakes and pies (and yes, I did wait in the ridiculously long line for an apple danish, and it was worth it). We spent the afternoon roaming the orchard, taking in the views, and tasting and picking many different types of apples. We picked quite a few, so you may see a common theme in the coming posts…

Apple Orchard.

Caramel Apples

Since there are so many variations of caramel apples with an endless list of toppings, this isn’t as much a recipe as it is a list of guidelines. Below is the list of ingredients I used, but other than the apples and caramel, the rest of the ingredients are really up to you.

Ingredients

  • Apples (I used Jonathans. Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Pink Ladys work well too.)
  • Cookie sticks or popsicle sticks
  • Caramel candies (or if you’re feeling ambitious, homemade caramel)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • White chocolate
  • Salted peanuts, crushed
  • Graham crackers, crushed
  • Marshmallows

Caramel Apple Ingredients

To begin, I washed and dried my apples thoroughly and then removed the stem from each one. Then I inserted the cookie sticks into the center about 3/4 of the way down. The sticks I used have blunt ends, so I cut one end on an angle to create a sharp point so they could easily pierce the apple.

I set up a double-boiler using a small sauce pan with one inch of water topped with a medium glass mixing bowl. Be careful not to let the bottom of your bowl touch the water, this can cause the chocolate to scorch. Depending on the size of the sauce pan, you may need a larger bowl.

Once the water came to a boil, I turned the heat down and placed the milk chocolate in the bowl to melt. I repeated this in separate bowls for the dark and white chocolate and the caramel.

For my first caramel apple, I went the traditional route: Caramel Apple with Salted Peanuts.

Caramel Apple with Salted Peanuts

To start, I dipped the apple in the melted caramel and scraped the bottom off with a spoon so the excess caramel didn’t pool around the bottom when it sets. I immediately rolled it in the crushed salted peanuts and then placed it on a tray with parchment paper. I put this in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes.

You can stop here, but since I had all the other toppings, I wanted to make my apple a little prettier (and tastier). Once the caramel was set, I carefully drizzled some white chocolate on the top and made some zig zag drizzles down the side of the apple. You can do this using a pastry bag, a zip lock bag with a corner snipped off, or a squeeze bottle.

Dark & White Chocolate Caramel Apple

Black & White Caramel Apple

I started this apple by dipping it in the melted caramel and then letting it set in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes. Next, I dipped it in the dark chocolate and let it cool in the fridge again. Once the dark chocolate layer had set, I piped melted white chocolate onto the apple, starting from the top and creating thin lines with the stream of chocolate. I found the easiest way was to hold the apple in one hand and slowly turn it while drizzling the white chocolate with the other hand. This helped to ensure all of the sides were evenly covered.

Ombre Caramel Apple

Ombre Caramel Apple

This apple was destined to become a s’mores caramel apple, but I managed to thoroughly burn the marshmallows while melting them for the first layer so now it’s an ombre caramel apple. To start, I dipped it in white chocolate and let that set in the fridge. Next was the milk chocolate layer and more time to set. Last, I dipped it in the dark chocolate and then rolled it in crushed graham crackers. For the final touch, I used a fork to create a pretty textured finish on the thicker layers of chocolate.

Before serving, I chilled the apples for about 20-30 minutes so all the layers and toppings had time to set.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

According to the Foodimentary blog (and my Facebook newsfeed) yesterday was National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. I understand why a PB&J would get its own national food celebration day. This sandwich is probably the most well known and definitely a well loved food combination. I read that a 2002 survey showed the average American school child will have eaten 2,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.

Though I don’t recommend eating 2,500 of these, I’m going to make the case for another delicious food pairing to get its own national food celebration day: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

They are the perfect balance of sweet and salty and I love the crunch from the chips. And it takes less than five minutes to make.

Start with some crinkle cut potato chips. I think the plain kind are not as sturdy and may not be able to hold the chocolate and then you would have chip breakage. And no one likes that.

Melt some chocolate in a bowl and dip the chips. Wait about 15-20 for the chocolate to harden and enjoy. Or, if you are like me and can’t wait, eat like chips and dip.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips!