12/25/14

Candy Cane Marshmallow Cocoa Dunkers

Merry Christmas! No doubt you’ve been baking and cooking all day.  Now is the time to kick back, put your feet up and give yourself the gift of a few hours of well-earned relaxation.

These candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers are a great to make your holiday ‘me’ time feel special with remarkably little effort. Especially since you don’t have to add anything extra to your grocery list for them.

Chances are that you are going to have some odds and ends left over from your holiday baking. I’m talking about that odd half cup of chocolate chips and those couple of lonely candy canes. Rather than dooming them to months of hanging out in the back of your cupboard, put them to use in these tasty candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers. All you need is a few big marshmallows (the kind you would toast over a campfire), some chocolate chips and a few candy canes.

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Start by breaking the last two inches off of each candy cane. Put the broken ends into a food processor or coffee grinder and blitz for a couple seconds until turned into fairly fine bits. I like to keep a few chunkier bits in the mix for texture and presentation. Empty the candy cane dust into a shallow bowl.

At this stage, use the remaining portion of the candy canes to create handles for the marshmallow cocoa dunkers. Simply push the broken end of the candy cane about halfway into the top of one of the marshmallows. That should be enough for to keep things in place.

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Melting the chocolate is the next step. You could do this over the stove but the quickest way is to do it in the microwave. Put the chips into a microwaveable dish and zap for 15 seconds at a time until melted. Make sure to stop and stir the chocolate between those 15 second intervals because chocolate can go from not done to overdone really quickly. Sometimes all it needs to be ready is the extra heat from a good stir through.

What chocolate you use is up to you and you can certainly mix it up or even try blends based on what you have to hand. I had dark chocolate chip so that is what I used for these candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers but milk chocolate or even white chocolate would work just fine.

Once the chocolate is melted, dip the ends of the marshmallow into the bowls and carefully move them around until they are coated. It may be helpful to use a small spoon to smooth out the chocolate coating. After that, liberally sprinkle the candy cane dust over the chocolate.

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That’s all it takes to make the candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers. You could chow down at this stage and enjoy them just fine as a chocolatey peppermint treat. That would be fine but it wouldn’t be going the full path to holiday treat relaxation. Nope, these babies should be dunked in a nice cup of rich hot chocolate.

Last night, I made myself a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate, using unsweetened vanilla almond milk and hooked one of the candy canes over the edge of the mug so that it and the attached marshmallow were adding all that extra pepperminty and marshmallowy goodness to the hot chocolate.

I loved that when I got to the bottom of the mug, there was just this one little bit of candy cane left that was waiting for permission to melt in my mouth. MMM.

Now go treat yourself!

08/7/14

Chocolate Custard Shakes At Short Order

Never let it be said that bribery doesn’t work when it comes to putting bums on restaurant seats. We tasted dozens of delicious recipes at last month’s LA Street Food Fest but only one  participant gave us the chance to try a free signature menu item if we visited their restaurant.

Short Order’s location at the Original Farmer’s Market next to The Grove has made it hard to miss. The final push that I needed to check them out came when they gave us tokens for a free custard milkshake just for visiting their booth. Custard? Milkshake? Yeah, that was happening.

Off we went, token in hand, to have brunch at Short Order. At first, it wasn’t looking especially promising as we waited patiently for a member of staff to notice us so that we could be seated. I’d blame it on them being super busy but there were only two other customers in the restaurant.

Short Order Los Angeles

Eventually, we were seated and from there everything was on the up. Our waitress recognized the custard shake tokens and said she had been one of the people handing them out. Sometimes when I am using a coupon for a free item I feel judged. Maybe like I am trying to get away with something?  Instead she made us feel that we were doing her a favor by responding to their promotion and proving it would bring new customers to the restaurant. That it did.

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Not that long ago, I was lamenting about the apparent lack of good milkshakes in Los Angeles. Clearly, that was before I had tried the chocolate custard milkshake at Short Order.

For some reason, I had my camera set to black and white for the first few shots that I took during our meal at Short Order but even in those tones you can admire the perfect thickness of the shake.

Custard Milkshake

Thick enough that a straw can stand straight up in the chocolatey goodness but not so impossibly thick that you can’t drink it with the straw. In this case, it needed to be a super wide straw that was needed but that’s all the better.

Soon enough,I noticed that I had the wrong camera setting and switched over to color so that I could show you the shake in its full glory. Isn;t that toasty brown color inviting? The chocolate used to make the custard milkshakes is a rich tasting and not overly sweet. I’m a dark chocolate type of gal so that was spot on for my tastebuds.

Short Order Chocolate Custard Milkshake

We both agreed that it wouldn’t the the last time we had a custard milkshake at Short Order. There is a vanilla variety on the menu and I’ll probably try to to make myself try that but it is going to be difficult to bypass the chocolate.

Chocolate Custard Milkshake

The food we had alongside our milkshakes was also good. We both had the corned beef hash. It felt appropriate to have a breakfast-ish dish at brunch. Presented nicely in individual cast iron dishes, the Short Order corned beef hash was a step above normal greasy spoon hash.

Short Order Corned Beef Hash

The meat was a high quality corned beef brisket. The sort that has a nice chew and just enough bits of delicious fat in the mix to make the corned beef even more delicious. The rest of the dish consisted of cubed potatoes, caramelized onions, tomatoes and charred romain lettuce. Of course, no corned beef hash would be complete without a fried egg on top.

Fried Egg On Corned Beef Hash

I posted a short video on Instagram of the moment I broke the yolk on that fried egg. There is something sexy about watching that golden yolk  slowly spread over the hash that borders on sexy. Don’t you think?

03/12/14

Birthday Cake M&M’s Review

Apparently,Mars wasn’t discouraged by the lackluster response to White Chocolate Carrot Cake M&Ms’. They are back with another cake based M&M’s flavor. This time around, it is a Birthday Cake M&M’s being introduced as a limited edition.

When I saw the Birthday Cake M&M’ on the shelves of my local CVS, I wasn’t immediately sure that I wanted to try them.  When I see ‘birthday cake’ as a flavor my mind goes right to a vanilla flavoring. The sort that tastes oddly sweet and not particularly like like actual vanilla.  Has anybody else noticed that all those girlie vodka versions from cotton candy to (of course) birthday cake are all just variations of vanilla?  Serious, the vanilla thing has been overplayed.

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Eventually though, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a pack to take home for a taste test. The first thing I noticed when opening the pack of Birthday Cake M&Ms was that the actual M&Ms were bigger than normal. Not the size of the the new Mega M&Ms but more like they had been overstuffed enough that they began to bulge and the seams.

When I started to eat them, I couldn’t help but notice that the chocolate filling had a different texture than normal M&M’s.  In particular, there is a creamier feel to it. Not at all unpleasant but different enough to notice.

So, how did the Birthday Cake M&M’s taste? It turns out that they are pretty dang good.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the birthday cake was a chocolate cake. I’m not sure why I didn’t figure that out before tasting. It isn’t like they show a big slice of chocolate cake on front of the packaging or anything, right? They are successful in creating a flavor profiles that is a chocolate cake batter taste with a hint of vanilla frosting. I’ll give them slack for the vanilla since it really is just a note and it compliments the chocolate.

So, thumbs up to the Birthday Cake M&M’s. They might not be quite the caliber of the dark chocolate peanut M&M’s (which are amazing!) but they are well above most of the limited edition M&M’s flavors of recent times.

11/10/13

Frozen hot chocolate in Las Vegas

A weird thing about me. I don’t really like milk chocolate all that much. Don’t get me wrong,I have chocolate cravings as much as the next hormonal woman. It is just that for me, the darker the chocolate the better.  The one exception to that rule has been with hot chocolate. I love hot chocolate. I’d still prefer a rich dark flavor but a good creamy milk hot chocolate isn’t going to be met with scorn.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, a friend of mine,who is familiar with my hot chocolate appreciation, kept insisting that we needed to go to Serendipity 3 so that I could try their frozen hot chocolate. Frozen hot chocolate. That just sounds like a junior high school science fair project but who am I to deny the insistence of a chocolate loving friend.

The expedition to Serendipity 3 began with four people but when we got there,and saw a long line, all but two of us bowed out. Some people just aren’t foodies and the dividing line between the two appears to be willing to stand outside for an hour in an unseasonably cold Las Vegas in order to try a dish.

For this foodie, it was worth the wait. The first thing to be said about the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 in Las Vegas is that it is huge.  I took this photo of myself with it to give a comparison to how big it was in relation to my head. Did I mention that I am lactose intolerant? Talk about taking a gamble in Las Vegas!

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Secondly, it is super messy.  The hot chocolate is frozen to a consistency that reminded me of a fancier version of a Wendy’s frosty. Which means it melts super quickly. Their remedy is to sit the serving dish in a bowl so that the run off ends up in the bowl rather than all over the counter. This isn’t a time to have too much pride to wear your napkin as a bib.

The taste itself is pretty much as the name would suggest. Imagine a creamy milk hot chocolate that has been stuck in the freezer and you wouldn’t be far off. A delight for a chocolate loving foodie looking for a bit of indulgence in Sin City.

Plan on making it a meal in itself or share it with others because there is just so much of it that there won’t be room in your tummy for anything else.  The next time I am in New York I will have to set aside some time to go to the original Serendipity and see how their version of the frozen hot chocolate compares to the Las Vegas version.