Sipping Chocolate

Here in Raleigh, the Hubster and I have spent some time discovering cool places. One of our favorite spots is a local chocolate factory called, Videri Chocolate. From the minute you open the doors, your senses are excited. The smell of chocolate greets you like a warm hug. The samples are both savory and sweet. The self-guided tour appeals to your brain. 

We have been fortunate to have many, many visitors since having Sammy. And we try to always take them to Videri. When my parents were most recently here in April, we spent some time on Videri's patio talking, eating, and drinking chocolate. But it wasn't an ordinary chocolate. It was sipping chocolate. When my parents first tasted this treat, they immediately were reminded of their travels to Sao Paulo, Brazil (to see my cousins) where they also had sipping chocolate. 

Since I can't always get over to Videri, and I always want more than 2 ounces of the special drink, I figured out how to make a knock-off version. Although you can make your own version at home, I highly recommend getting over to Videri to try theirs!

The best part about this sipping chocolate is that it can be made with Almond Milk. In fact, I have perfected the recipe using almond milk. So for anyone needing less dairy, here is your new best friend!

Sipping Chocolate

(adapted from Ghiradelli's recipe)

Ingredients

1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or Almond Milk)

1/3 cup semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

1/8 cup Cocoa, unsweetened

1 tbsp. Sugar (raw or granulated)

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Pinch Salt

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes, whisking often. Temperature should be causing the chocolate to be at a low boil. Chocolate is done when it coats the back of a spoon. Pour into cups and enjoy!

Mom's Company Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but tend not to make it because it's too labor intensive. When my mom was visiting after Samuel was born, she made us her cheesecake. It is super easy and isn't difficult to make. The sour cream topping hides any mistakes, bubbles, or variations in color!

My mom has an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's from the 70's, is hardbound and well worn. Inside this cookbook is a recipe for Company Cheesecake. I vividly remember eating this cheesecake over the years as we would have friends over for dinner or be guests at their homes. As you may know, I love modifying recipes. I didn't realize that characteristic was from my mom! Check out her recipe notes:

Mom's Company Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. Graham Crackers (aprox. 2 packages), finely crushed

  • 3 tbsp. Sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

  • 4 tbsp. Butter, melted

  • 3 (8 oz.) pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened (or whipped cream cheese)

  • 1 1/3 c. Sugar

  • 2 tsp. Grated Lemon Peel

  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

  • 4 Eggs

  • Sour Cream Topping: 1 c. sour cream, 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract, and 2 tbsp. Sugar (beat together)

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Mix cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon & butter. Press in bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake 10 minutes; cool.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese in large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/3 cup sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla; beat in 1 egg at a time. Pour over crumb mixture.

Bake until center is firm, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, but no longer than a few days (if it lasts that long). Top with sour cream mixture.

Loosen edge of cheesecake with knife before removing springform pan. Cut and serve to friends and loved ones. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I'm back at it again! Last time I made bread pudding, I had a little accident and ended up cutting my finger. I wrote about this tale at the beginning of the year. When I made the delectable bread pudding this time though, I did not have any emergencies!

Anthony has been working at the most amazing bakery called Yellow Dog Bread Company. I will be sharing more about the store in the next few weeks, as they deserve their own post, they're that good! Matt and Tanya Andrews, the owners, have been incredibly generous to both of us. One benefit of working at Yellow Dog is the free bread at the end of the night. Recently, Anthony texted me and said, Tanya wants to know if you can make pumpkin bread pudding out of cinnamon rolls. I said, I can't guarantee anyting but I will try it out. Worst case scenario: it doesn't work. Best case scenario: they are amazing. The best case scenario prevailed!

To start, you'll need 4 large cinnamon rolls. I cut the rolls in the morning and put them in a pan to dry out for a few hours. 

Once they've dried a little, add melted butter to the bread.

Stir the pumpkin mixture (recipe is at the end of this post), being careful to not topple over the mixing bowl with your baby bump.

Add pumpkin mixture to the cinnamon rolls.

Bake and add warmed maple syrup to the top once finished. 

Bon Appetit! The best part about using cinnamon rolls is the frosting will run to the bottom of the pan. When you take a bite, you'll get a burst of sweet.

Thank you, Tanya for the awesome idea. Here are the recipe details:

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Bread Pudding

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 4 large Cinnamon Rolls, cut in to bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk (I used 2%, use whatever you'd like)
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 3 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 tbsp. Vanilla Extract

Directions

Cut the cinnamon rolls and place in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Let the rolls sit out for a few hours to dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and add to cinnamon rolls. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Then wisk all other ingredients (except maple syrup) together in the same bowl. Pour over the top of the rolls. Using a spoon, make sure all bread has some of the pumpkin mixture. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the pumpkin mixture is cooked. Add maple syrup to the top once out of the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

Enjoy!

Also, the Hubster said he wants to apologize for the photos. They do not make the bread pudding look nearly as appetizing as it was. This stuff was GOOD!

Whole Spice, Napa Valley

Recently, I read a blog post about freshly ground spices making a difference in cooking and baking. The post was about pumpkin pie spice and it had a link to a whole spice company in Seattle. I soon had my online cart full of $50 worth of spices when I thought, what am I going to do with all of these spices? What if I don't like them? I abandoned my online shopping cart and forgot about the whole spice idea...

Until we walked into Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California. It was there I saw a sign, a sign that read: Whole Spice.

I proceeded to tell Anthony all about whole spices. He said, go buy what you want. I couldn't pass up his offer.

I met Jennifree who manages Whole Spice.

She was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable as she showed be around the spice racks.

Whole Spice is a local company who specializes in all types of spices. The owners, the Madmones, travel around the world to find the best spices. They bring them back to Petaluma where they create delicious aromas and blends.

Jennifree told me they have over 300 single herbs, 40 types of salt, 20 varieties of chili, and 20 different peppers!

In addition to all of those spices, they also have over 70 blends. My nose was happy when I smelled the chicken and turkey herb blends. It was like Thanksgiving in a jar! I bought their pizza blend and immediately I thought I was in a pizza kitchen.

The next time you need a new spice, visit Whole Spice (Napa Valley or online). Your olfactory senses will be pleasantly surprised when they detect a fragrant, fresh spice.

Have you ever ground your own whole spices?