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!

 

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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.

Easy Chocolate Chess Pie

My Family loves homemade desserts and I am up for the task as long as it is not too labor intensive. I had never made a chocolate chess pie before but remembered enjoying it a few years ago. Lucky me I had all the ingredients on hand and the pie making began, (and was all gone within 3 days!)

This pie is quick and easy and if you are chocolate lovers like my family then this is the dessert for you!

Filling Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar

5 oz dark chocolate

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup milk

3 large eggs

1/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 9″ pie crust

 

 Crust Ingredients:

2 cups ground oatmeal

1/4 cup sugar

5 tablespoons of softened butter

 

Instructions:

Place the oatmeal in a blender and chop until finely ground (you can also use nuts or cookies that have been crushed). Pour the oatmeal 1/4 cup of sugar in a 9″ pie pan and mix. Add the 5 tablespoons of butter and mix thoroughly, press mixture until flat and it covers the base and walls of the pie plate.

In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and chocolate stirring constantly. When completely melted remove from heat and add the sugar, salt, and flour stir until well blended. Let this mixture rest about 5 minutes then add the vanilla, milk and heavy cream, stir vigorously for 2 minutes. beat the eggs and slowly add one at a time until completely incorporated into chocolate mixture. 

 

Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes. Let cool before serving. Top with homemade whipped cream and Enjoy!

 

 

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.

Thanksgiving Carrot Cake

Thanksgiving Carrot Cake

carrotsraisin

pecans

white choco chunks

In the fall my family longs for the taste of spiced goodies, this cake fits the bill. It is quick, easy and I feel good knowing that all the ingredients were placed in the mixing bowl out of pure love. I hope that you too will find that this recipe brings the taste of Fall to your family’s table and will remain a staple for years to come.

Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of sugar

1 cup olive oil

½ cup butter (room temperature)

4 eggs (well beaten)

3 tsp. blackstrap molasses

2 cups of unbleached flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. ginger (ground)

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup raisins (multi-colored)

4oz white chocolate chopped into chunks

3 cups grated carrots

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven 325 degrees

Mix sugar, eggs and molasses, add the oil and butter blend well. Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix. Once blended add to the wet mixture and blend well. Add the carrots, raisins, pecans and white chocolate blend well until all is mixed thoroughly.

Place into 3 greased 9” cake pans for about 30 minutes.

Once baking is complete let cool and remove from pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 sticks of butter soften

2 packages of cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream (can use milk instead)

Blend the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add the powdered sugar, lemon and heavy cream. Whip until light and fluffy.

Frost the layers of the cake, placing one on top of each other. Frost sides, and top. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh.

carrot cake

Happy Fall & Enjoy!