Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

It is August, for a lot of this it means we are reminiscing over summer vacations or waiting to squeeze a last minute vacation in before September comes. Our family has already been on vacation, so I am left to reminisce. In doing so I thought about all the baking I decided to do before we went on vacation this year, it took some extra prep work but it was well worth it. We had lots of yummy treats for the car ride and when we arrived at our destination. This made for a happy family and a happy Mama, who didn’t have to rush off to the grocery store or a restaurant upon arrival.

nonpariel 4                        

I knew I wanted to make the Chocolate Nonpareil Cookies (you can find that recipe by clicking here), then I was blessed with a new (to me) idea Peanut Butter Cookies with a Cocoa Mill Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup in the middle! I also made cinnamon rolls and danish (those recipes to follow!)

peanutbutter-surprise-cookies

Easy Better Peanut Butter Cookies

What you’ll need:

pbcc,  flour eggs butter  peanutbutter

2/3 cup of butter (or shortening)

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup  of brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. of baking soda

1/4 to 1/2 a tsp. of salt (depending on how sweet you like your cookies

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

15 – 20 Cocoa Mill Peanut Butter Cups (milk or dark pb cups will work, I used milk)

2pb dough

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl mix together butter, sugars until well blended, add the egg and vanilla mix again thoroughly. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix again until all ingredients are incorporated. Add the peanut butter last and mix one last time.

At this point you will need a cutting board and very sharp knife. one by one cut the peanut butter cups in half and set aside.

Form your dough in 2 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Take your halved pb cups and pressed down a bit into the middle of the dough of each cookie. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

pb cookies

Take cookies out of the oven, let cool a bit and enjoy!

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Bird’s Nest Cookies

easter basket

Every holiday Cocoa Mill Chocolate Shop is bustling as we hurry to make the appropriate seasonal chocolates that so many people have come to incorporate into their holiday traditions. This Spring we are busy making custom Easter baskets filled with Peanut Butter or Coconut Eggs, Chocolate Bunnies and many more fabulous confections. The smell of melting chocolate never gets old; it is howeegg2 (3)ver our job, so finding time and energy for fun Holiday activities and special time making memories with our children takes planning and preparation. Of course we will dye our Easter eggs and prepare for the Easter bunny to visit our house, as well as learn about what Easter truly means to our family, but this year I thought that I would do a little extra, a little more.

 

I know that this is an easy and simple recipe but I thought that it would work perfectly for and added Easter activity. We will be making The tried and true Bird’s Nest cookies, the only difference is we will be sprucing it up with Cocoa Mill’s gourmet white chocolate. So step aside chocolate or butterscotch chips, this isn’t your grandmother’s bird’s nest cookie (although I know grandma would enjoy them too :)ha ha ).

 

 

 

Bird’s Nest Cookies

 

What you will need:

 

white chocolate chunks

peanutbutter

 

How to make the cookies:

    1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
    2. Place White Chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave-safe container. Heat on 50% power for 1 minute. Stir, and repeat, until chocolate is melted.
    3. Stir in chow -mein noodles until fully coated.
    4. Drop by tablespoonful onto prepared baking sheet.
    5. Use your thumb and press down in the center to form a nest shape.
    6. Place a few candy robin’s eggs in the center of each nest for eggs.
    7. Refrigerate until firm.

 

birdnest22

Enjoy!

 

Chocolate & Weight loss

Chocolate and weight loss don’t seem like they would go hand and hand, but more and more studies are finding that regularly consuming high quality (not quantity) chocolate can help you reach your desired weight loss goal without depriving yourself. Keep in mind not all chocolate is created equal. Cranberries, Almonds and Chocolate, Oh My

“Real chocolate is like no other substance on earth. For years scientists have tried to duplicate its characteristics without success. They have come very close,  but the very best is still a pale comparison. The main difference between real chocolate and a ‘chocolate flavored’ substance is its most basic ingredient, cocoa butter. When you pick up a candy bar in the grocery store, look at the ingredients label on the package. If it does not contain cocoa butter, it is not real chocolate. Chocolate is more expensive than its artificial counterpart and is well worth the extra coins to treat your mouth and body to a taste of heaven.

Chocolate has been found to lower blood pressure and it is a potent antioxidant according to the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Not only does it taste good but it is good for you ~ Cocoa butter melts completely at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature is 98.7. Coincidence? I don’t think so.” – RCI

Research shows that chocolate’s health benefits  not only include reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, but it also contains antioxidants like epicatechin, which other research has shown appears to boost the energy-producing elements of the body’s cells.

Chocolate also release endorphins in your brain. A secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response. With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress. Endorphins have been suggested as modulators of the so-called “runner’s high” that athletes achieve with prolonged exercise.

“For the study, published in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined more than 1,000 healthy men and women who were free of heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol problems. They were all enrolled in another study that measured the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, but for this study researchers assigned them questionnaires that gauged how often participants chowed down on chocolate.

The researchers found that the participants (who were an average age of 57) ate chocolate for an average of twice of week and exercised roughly 3.5 times per week… But those who more frequently ate chocolate retained a lower BMI (a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity).”  –CBS News

“The findings suggest that the health benefits of chocolate may be linked to how many times in a given week chocolate is eaten rather than the total amount consumed in that week,” says the study’s lead researcher, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “Eating a small amount of chocolate each of five days during a week was linked to a lower BMI, even if the person ate more calories overall and didn’t exercise more than other participants.”

These studies bring good news that chocolate and weight loss can happily coincide.

Cocoa Mill’s Hot Chocolate

Every time it snows my children have come to expect that they will be served hot chocolate after they return indoors from their winter excursions. Not just any hot chocolate mind you, but homemade concoction using their Father’s chocolate; Cocoa Mill’s milk and dark chocolate.  I can guarantee when I place the warm cups of cocoa in front of them they will ask: “Did you make this with Daddy’s chocolate?” the answer is always “Yes.” and there are smiles all around.

Being that it is 3 degrees outside today (but no snow) I thought it would be fitting to share this homemade hot chocolate recipe.

 

What you will need:

4 cups of whole milk

3 oz Cocoa Mill Dark Chocolate

3 oz Cocoa Mill Milk Chocolate

3 Tbsp granulated sugar*

3 tsp. vanilla

6 Tbsp powdered sugar*

1 pint heavy whipping cream

Chocolate shavings

You will also need a mixer capable of whipping cream.

Process:

1. Warm milk in a sauce pan over low heat, (be careful not to boil the milk). When steam begins rising from the milk add your 2 types of chocolate, 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 3 Tbsp of granulated sugar. Continue cooking over low heat until chocolate is melted and well blended with the milk.

 

2. Place whip cream in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and 3 Tbsp of powdered sugar whip with a beater until the cream forms stiff peaks when the beater is removed. Cover and place in refrigerator.

whipcream

There are so many ways you could adjust this recipe, add Bailey’s Irish Creme for an adult beverage, add 3 Tbsp of coffee (or more) for a mocha-chino, add some caramel syrup on top of the whip cream just for an added yum. Let us know what variations you come up with!

*You can also substitute  truvia for sugars or another sweetener to decrease caloric/carbohydrate in take.

You can save the additional hot chocolate mixture for up to a week in the refrigerator and reheat as needed.

Holiday Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry-Orange--Bread

This Cranberry Orange Bread has been a gift to loved ones at the Christmas for as long as I can remember. I bake it in small loaf pans and deliver before Christmas to loved ones  along with other delectable treats. This bread gets some of the best reviews so I thought I would share it with you!

Ingredients:

flour eggs butter

2 cups of white sugar

1 3/4 cups of orange juice

2 eggs

1/2 cup of melted butter

5 cups of flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. of baking powder

3-4 cups of cranberries

6 oz chopped white chocolate

1 orange sliced into quarters

Directions:

cran orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place cranberries and orange in a food processor and chop until small chunks are reached.

In a bowl sift the dry ingredients, then add the cranberries and orange mix and blend well. Add the wet ingredients and bend again. Add the white chocolate chunks and mix one last time. Let the batter stand for 20 minutes before pouring into pans.

white chocolate chunks

Pour into 2 greased loaf pans or several small loaf pans and Bake for 35 -40 (larger pans) or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely then drizzle or pour glaze over top of the bread.

cran orange bread

Glaze:

Place 1 cup of confectioners sugar, 2 Tbsp. orange juice and add milk until thin and soft liquid consistency is reached. Leave little white specs of sugar in the glaze to look like snow flakes when poured onto bread.

I hope you will find this is an easy way to show people you care at the Holidays.

This bread can be made ahead of time and frozen. Do not glaze until you are ready to give them away or enjoy yourself 🙂

Homemade Holiday Granola Gifts

pan granola

Homemade Granola

Makes about 2 pounds

Adapted from Feast, by Nigella Lawson

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

1 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. dried ground ginger

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. blackstrap molasses

1 tsp. salt

10 packets truvia

1 cup unsweetened granny smith applesauce (or another unsweetened fruit puree)

1 cup honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 oz. dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 300F

 In a very large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts and seeds, truvia, spices and salt.

 In a small saucepan, warm the fruit puree with the molasses, honey, and oil.

Mix the warm liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly coated.

Place on two baking sheets. (If you have ones with sides them, it makes it easier when stirring.) Bake the granola for about 45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is deep golden brown. Remove from oven, while granola is still warm from the oven add in the dark chocolate tossing until chocolate begins to melt and form clumps in the granola.

choco granola

 Cool completely. At this point you can add dried fruits if you like to add dimension, color and flavor to your granola. (white chocolate chunks and dried cranberries add for a festive holiday look.)

Place the granola into mason jars (the size is your choice), tie with a bow and give out as holiday gifts.

homemade granola jar

The granola will keep for about 4 to 6 weeks in an airtight container.

Chocolate Salads

The other day I made the comment “The best way to eat a salad is to throw it away and get a chocolate bar out of the cupboard.”

Being that it is January people have made their New Year’s resolutions, a lot of them involved not eating sweets, exercising more and doing away with certain vices. It seems to be increasingly hard to keep these resolutions; temptations seem to be lurking around every corner. This is an attempt at finding a way to help indulge the temptations that are faced without crossing the line of over doing it. Hopefully these next recipes will bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when tried.

Strawberry Salad with Chocolate Dressing:

choc salad

You will need:

1 bag spinach leaves
5 large strawberries cut in half
1/8 cup of feta cheese crumbled
½ of a purple onion
Handful of slivered almonds (sunflower seeds or your nut of choice)
3 oz. of dark chocolate
1 tbsp. of honey
1/8 tsp. of black ground pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of olive oil
4 tbsp. of water

Place the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the chocolate continue to stir the oil and chocolate until it is melted then add the water, pepper and honey, stir until well blended. Remove from heat and let cool 8 minutes. After the 8 minutes add the balsamic vinegar, stir until well blended.

chocolate dressing

Thinly slice the purple onions and place in a skillet that has been drizzled with olive oil. Cook the onions until they become soft, limp and begin to lose their color. Remove the onions from the skillet and place in an airtight container. Take a portion of the dressing and coat the onions on all sides. Place the onions in the refrigerator to cool. Also place the chocolate dressing in a container to cool in the frig for about 30 minutes.

spinach berries feta

Remove half of the onions from the dressing and place on a salad plate. Add the spinach leaves (make sure they are washed and all water has been spun off) Add the feta cheese, strawberries and almonds. Drizzle the chocolate dressing in a zigzag motion over your salad and enjoy.

This next recipe I ran across on ABC Health and Well Being it looks pretty tasty so I am passing it along…

Orange Mint and Chocolate Salad:

orange salad
• 3 oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
• 2 sprigs of mint, washed and leaves picked off the stem
• zest and juice of 1 lime
• 2 tsp of honey
• 20g dark chocolate, grated

Place the orange slices onto a large plate and sprinkle the mint and lime zest over them. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey and lime juice. Pour this over the oranges and then top with the grated chocolate. Sweet, Simple, Enjoy!