Category Archives: addictions

Chocolate Monday: Cookie dough brownies

cookie dough browniesI’m baaaaaaaccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

Thanks to the concussion I sustained in my recent car accident (not my fault, I was rear-ended while stopped), I had to take a bit of a hiatus from my blog. I tried to maintain my blog at first, but it turns out when my doctor tells me to limit my screen time, I should do a better job of listening.

I thought I was doing better. My headaches had mostly subsided, I no longer had to nap in the middle of every day and I wasn’t having as many strange emotional outbursts. I was on the mend, so I figured I’d better get caught up on all that grading I’d been neglecting.

Silly me! My headaches rushed back, I was exhausted and my emotions…CRAZY!

So, I did my best to cut out any screen I could, but now that I’m finally starting to feel mostly normal (only like two headaches last week), I’m gonna try this whole blogging thing again.

For my first chocolate blog back, I want to talk about a Pinterest recipe I tried out last week. I had to bake something to reward a few of my students for their reading achievements. I love baking and over the years I’ve built up quite a reputation at my school for my mad skillz in the kitchen. Sometimes I create my own recipes and sometimes I cheat a bit and use other people’s recipes. Not that it matters to my students (or my family). They love it either way.

I love Pinterest. I’m the person who saves all those amazing recipes and then actually makes them. I mean, not all of them. I have dozens of recipes on each of my different food boards (side dishes, main dishes, cookies/bars, desserts, breakfast, crock pot, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, popsicle/ice cream and candy) that I have not yet gotten around to try, but I make something off of Pinterest at least once a week. Usually 3 or 4 times.

I’ve had this recipe for cookie dough brownies saved on my cookies/bars board for quite some time. Last weekend was the perfect time to make them. I wanted something to really wow my students and these looked like they’d do the trick.

And boy did they! When I handed them out to the readers who’d reached their goal, they were ecstatic. More importantly, the rest of my students perked up and asked how many books they had to finish to get one. After I handed them out and my students raved about them, I saw a renewed enthusiasm for silent reading.

Although they took a little extra time and created double the dishes since I had to make brownie batter and cookie dough, they were worth it. The recipe calls for dark chocolate chips, but I knew the Penzy’s Dutch process cocoa powder I was using was going to be a bit stronger than the garden variety Hershey’s, and I don’t really like dark chocolate much, so I opted for semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I hoped would help keep these morsels from being too sweet. I think they did.

The brownies themselves are quite tasty. They aren’t overly dense, but they make a substantial bottom for the treat. They were moist and cooked to perfection. I don’t like when my brownies get crunchy. I am a center brownie girl. I usually dish out the edge brownies to my family members and students and save the amazingly delicious center ones for myself!  Thankfully even the edge brownies in this batch didn’t get crunchy.

The cookie dough topping was sweet and tasted pretty much like the delicious cookie batter I whip up for my regular chocolate chip cookies, but without the danger of raw eggs that I’ll admit I risk every time I make cookies.

Combined they are rich. I can only eat one and cannot imagine two in the same day, much less at the same sitting. My husband says he likes them, but that they are too rich for him–he’d rather have a brownie and a cookie than the two combined. Of course, he prefers his candy in the Skittle or gummy form, so I’m not sure his opinion counts for much in this case.

If you like to bake, I highly suggest giving these a try. They are a real crowd pleaser.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 9/10 (pretty cheap to make)

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Free Reading Friday: Inherit Midnight

Inherit MidnightYet another Rosie nominee is checked off my list! Only 3 more to go…so I’ll finish the 2107-2018 list off in just enough time for the 2018-2019 list to be revealed. That’s only slightly disheartening as it means: more books!

I really enjoyed Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers. Granted, I thought the love story was a bit too immediately perfect and even the main character of Avery seemed a bit one-dimensional at times, but it was still a fun book to read and I think teenagers will especially enjoy this YA mystery novel.

The story centers around Avery, the black sheep of the family who has spent her entire life being spurned by her very wealthy, very haughty extended family for being the product of her father’s affair with the nanny. Since her mother died in childbirth and her father is an alcoholic, she is raised by her slightly cold grandmother who has unrealistic expectations of both family honor and duty. She does not allow Avery any freedom and when Avery sneaks out to go to a perfectly innocent party with her friends, she is shipped off to a truly horrible boarding school.

However, the story does not center around her misadventures at boarding school, but her grandmother’s inheritance contest. Her grandmother, who no one has seen lately, has taken ill. In an attempt to find the most worthy heir, she sets up a contest, which she is constantly monitoring, that everyone who wants to be the heir must compete in. The rules are strict and the contests all center around knowing the family’s long and prestigious ancestry, something Avery’s grandmother has been trying to instill in her family members her entire life. It seems that only Avery paid much attention though.

As Avery agrees to compete in the competition not for the money, but to find out more about her past. With the help of Riley, the 19-year-old son of her grandmother’s lawyer, Avery is whisked away on adventures across the globe in a race to solve puzzles and survive her family members, because someone is sending her threatening notes and texts.

Although it is a bit predictable, I found myself wanting to find out how Avery was going to solve each task and which of her family members would be eliminated after each task. Conveniently, Avery’s grandmother, who is very stuffy and obsessed with her prestigious family is also a big fan of reality TV. So Avery’s journey is part Survivor and part Amazing Race.

For anyone who likes a mystery, especially one geared at a YA audience, this is a great book.

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Cups of Love

Godiva cups of loveMy last few Godiva experiences have not been stellar. However, years of dedicated love to them, and some damn fine chocolates along the way, are keeping me loyal. So, when I stopped in recently and saw their new Cups of Love chocolates, I knew I’d be giving them a try.

Since they are named for love, it’s no surprise that they are part of this year’s Valentine collection. They are cute to look at and since there are only four flavors, I bought one of each to try.

I’m a best for last kinda gal, so I decided to try the one that appealed the least to me first. Since dark chocolate is often my nemesis, I grabbed the Chocolate Cup of Love first. This one is a bit deceptive as it has a milk chocolate shell. I didn’t really read the description in the store, so it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the website that I realized it was going to be dark chocolate in the center. Considering Godiva’s (and the world’s) love for dark chocolate I knew at least one of them had to be pure darkness. Despite its very thin milk chocolate shell, this one is definitely a dark chocolate piece. It’s not overly bitter though, so I didn’t really mind it. The tiny, crispy cocoa bits on top give it a fun texture. While I wouldn’t want to eat more than this bite sized cup, I found it perfectly good and actually kind of enjoyed it.

My second piece was the Caramel-Cafe Cup of Love. Caramel is always one of my top sweet treats, but I detest coffee, so I was hoping the caramel would be enough to save this piece. The dark chocolate shell didn’t inspire confidence. It has a distinctly caramel coffee taste. On the rare occasions I am dying for caffeine and actually buy coffee drinks, they have to contain lots of sweet additives like chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. This piece reminded me quite a bit of the coffee drink I get once or twice a year at my favorite cafe. I actually rather liked it, which thrilled me.

I have not had a great run with Godiva’s pistachio flavored treats lately, but since it had no threat of coffee or dark chocolate in it, my next one was the Pistachio Chocolate Cup of Love. The white chocolate shell, even though it is thin, is initially pretty overwhelmingly sweet. The older I get, the more I don’t care much for the super sugary sweetness of white chocolate. The pistachio flavor was more reserved…a bit more of a hint than anything. The bite where I got the piece of the actual nut on top was the only one that rang true to the spirit of pistachio. This piece had a strange, slightly gritty texture to it that did not seem nutty. Gritty isn’t even the right word exactly. It felt like it was coating my mouth. The flavor was ok, but the after coating freaked me out a bit. In hindsight, I should have switched this one for the coffee caramel one.

My final piece was the Strawberry Cup of Love. I really had to swish my mouth out with water to get rid of the sweet coating before I could try it. I’m glad I saved this strawberry piece for last. To me it was the best piece. I like the more liquidy strawberry center. It was sweet without being too sweet. Honestly, my only real complaint is that I wish it had a bit more strawberry flavor and maybe a slightly tart hint. I love when strawberries are just a bit tart. I also love the combination of tart fruit and chocolate. This one was just mild and sweet.

The strawberry piece was the best of the bunch, but even it wasn’t anything to rave about. I definitely did not fall in love in love with this collection. It wasn’t as disappointing as some of the more recent collections, but I am starting to think I need to keep my love for the classics and forgo the newer chocolates.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 6/10

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Free Reading Fridays: The Good Braider

The good braiderNovels in verse have become one of my latest joys. Before this year I’d only read a few of them and although I’d enjoyed them, I hadn’t thought too much about them.

However, in the last six months, I have read four of them and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. While my favorite of them was probably One by Sarah Crossan, they have all been beautiful and heartbreaking in their own rights.

My latest find, Farish’s The Good Braider, is definitely both lovely and heartbreaking. It amazes me the depth of character and plot Farish is able to accomplish when she strips away the extraneous adjectives and sentences and tells the story of Viola in poignant and striking verse. In many ways, the verse, which is stripped of the usual finery of a novel, is able to tell the story in an even more striking way. The harsh brutalities of Viola’s life in Southern Sudan as well as her flight to America are even more haunting and powerful because they make Viola seem stripped down and more vulnerable. The lack of flowery prose, makes the story seem more stark and naked, just as Viola is, both physically and emotionally throughout the story.

Farish weaves an excellent story through her lines of verse. Nothing is lost by the loss of sentences and paragraphs. If anything, Viola’s story is more powerful in verse.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Pinterest recipes

I am that person who not only pins recipes on Pinterest, but actually makes them as well. In fact, at this very moment I have two different Pinterest dishes in my oven, hopefully baking to delicious perfection.

Sure, I have a lot more recipes pinned than I’ve managed to try at this point, but I’d say I’ve tried at least 20% of all my pins, and based on all of my friends boards and results, I’d say that’s above average! In fact, one of my friends will pin desserts she wants me to make for her, which I find hysterical. She won’t make them, but she knows there is at least a chance I will.

I don’t go for anything too complicated. Earlier today I glanced through a group of recipes that were housed under one pin because they promised to be delicious meatless main courses. Since my daughter has decided to go vegetarian, I am always looking for good veggie meals the whole family will enjoy (rather than just modifying her dinner). When I went through them I realized not that they were too complicated to make, but that my 7 year old, who was a bit of a picky eater before she gave up meat, would never touch most of the dishes, so I trashed that pin. I end up trashing about 10% of my initial pins because they’ll be too complex or on a full glance I know my family won’t eat them.

I also had to trash a few phenomenal looking recipes I’d pinned because when I went back to them (granted, it might have been a few years later), the pages no longer existed. That definitely made me sad. Luckily for every recipe I have to trash due to a bad link, there are 50 more that look equally good with working links. At least for now.

I’ll admit that I definitely like to look at the recipes more than I like to cook them. But I love all the variety available on Pinterest and how easy it is to flag and tag recipes my family really loves. As much as I loved pouring over cooking magazines (I used to subscribe to three different ones), I really love not having to try to remember which magazine I’d found a particular recipe in. It’s so much easier to just jump on Pinterest and scroll through my saved dishes.

True, I don’t get all the chef’s tips, histories and detailed cooking instructions on Pinterest. I also don’t get the joy of getting mail I actually want and then flipping through a magazine to see everything available. But, I still get glossy pictures and good recipes, so I’d say it’s a good trade off.

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Chocolate Monday: Green & Black’s almond bar

Green & Black almondOnce again, my local Kroger had a coupon for chocolate. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it makes me blissfully happy. This time around, it was for Green & Black’s almond bar.

I’ve never tried any chocolate from Green & Black’s before, so this was a fun new venture for me.

The wrapper is nothing spectacular to look at and neither is the bar itself. They are sort of calm, sedated pieces that I probably would have glanced right over had I not had the coupon. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for good packaging, especially if it includes pictures of the delicious fillings inside chocolate bars–specifically caramel or fruit. I love packaging for a cherry chocolate bar that has a bright ripe cherry on the front.

But, as George Michael reminded us, “sometimes the clothes do not make the man”–I may have just watched Pitch Perfect 3 this past week. And in this case, the “clothes” wrapper doesn’t speak for the chocolate itself.

The wrapper may be plain, but the chocolate is actually pretty good. The chocolate is nice and creamy without even a hint of bitterness to it. And, it is filled with giant almonds. We’re not talking about almond chips or sliced almonds, but full, big ol’ daddy almonds which add a satisfying crunch to the bar.

Green & Black almond close upIt’s not often that that I grab a chocolate bar with almonds because I generally like my chocolate a little more adventurous. Whenever I think of a chocolate bar with almonds, I get images of my grandmother eating her old standby: Hershey’s with almonds. And while they were fine when there was nothing else to munch on, I always wanted something with a bit more panache.

Green & Black’s bar is simple. It’s not fancy. There are no whistles or bells, but it’s still pretty tasty. And, it’s Fair Trade chocolate, which always makes me feel better about my impact on our world. While this bar is not something I’d buy every day, but when I need to get back to the basics, it’ll be worth another try.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Appearance: 5/10
Value: 6/10 (at $3.25 a bar it’s a bit more expensive than a Hershey, but it’s organic and Fair Trade)

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Free Reading Friday: Secretariat

SecretariantSecretariat by William Nack was an obligation book for me. I read it because one of my students asked me to so that she could use it for her non-fiction book project. Since I’d read Seabiscuit the year before for a similar reason, I figured this would be similar. I’d already exposed myself to the world of racing, so this book would be easy to get through, right?

WRONG! At least not for me. Now, I am not a racing fan of any sort, so I’m sure that was part of my problem with the book. Actually, it was like 90% of my problem with the book. Since I am not a fan of horse racing and do not follow it in any way, my only real knowledge of racing comes from Seabiscuit and the one time I went to the race track with my family because my aunt had won some sort competition which entitled her to a party at the racetrack. I was 15 and wasn’t even allowed to bet, so my memories of it are hazy at best.

I was prepared for an underdog race horse story with lots of descriptions of the people surrounding the horses and the races themselves. And I got that. What I was not prepared for was page upon page upon page (seriously, like 1/4 of this book) devoted to begets. It was like reading Genesis in the Bible, only for horses. This horse beget this horse beget this horse ad nauseum. I was also not expecting very detailed descriptions of horse insemination. Seabiscuit was all about one horse and his racing career. Secretariat is all about those thoroughbreds that came before him, his amazing performance and those who trained him. It made the book awfully long.

I was also not a huge fan of Nack’s storytelling. I think part of the reason I enjoyed Seabiscuit so much was because of Hillenbrand’s storytelling. I actually liked her narrative so much that I went on to read Unbroken, which was a book that appealed to me even more and I found myself engrossed in. Nack’s narrative seemed broken up by all the begets and race times. It felt more like a list than a story at times.

I was also not a huge fan of Penny Tweedy. I thought her behavior spoiled and superior throughout most of the book. If Nack was trying to paint her as a heroine in the world of racing, it is not how she came across to me. She threw too many tantrums and was far too nasty to too many people for me to like her or even sympathize with her.

For true horse racing fans I’m sure this is an interesting read. It was just not the book for me. I felt each one of the 455 pages I read and I hate when that happens.

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