Spiced Dark Chocolate Hearts

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Oops!   Valentine's Day is around the corner and I forgot to give you guys something special to make whether it's for your kids, their teachers, your partner or your sworn enemy because I know, I know V-day is a big fat joke to most people - just another capitalist holiday to boost the economy, right?  But a morale boost?  I'm really not so sure about that.  For me, Valentine's day is all about my parents, in particular my dad.   Every year they showered my sister and me with gifts in the form of cupid pajamas, candy hearts and parental love notes.  Driving home that ever hopeful point that love is all you need.  Well, that and a 401k, if you can manage one.  Too bad neither of their children did manage one, but love?  We got that in spades.

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There's my given family with Mom, Dad, Ari, Alex, Leo, Max, Pepper, Dani, Stephanie, PJ, Tyler, Choo, Debbie, David, Zoe, Shawn, Sydney.  And there's my chosen family consisting of Hanne, Chloe, Sarah, Sarah, Sara, Zach, Chris, Kate, Anthony, David, Ashley, Buzzy, Cat, Amy, Grace, Travis, Graham, Aimie, Lowin, Gamba, Ally, Tim, Blair, Poppy, Fish, Jason's whole family, Craig, Dana, Tucci, Mona, Marissa, Jesmille, Jenny, Thomas, Daniella, Audrey, Devin, Sherry, Bob, Ella, Katie, Kimberly, Tarina, Michelle, and so on, and of course there's Jason, THE love.

But a girl's dad... well, that's its own sort of loving kindness.

And the lucky truth is there are more.  Like so many more, and I don't need no Feb 14th to remind me how much love there is in my life and in the world.  My dad, the calm and loving force in the Wolfe house, is an especially remarkable example of love and perseverance.  He was the middle child with one older and one much younger sister.  They grew up in a tiny tenement apartment in what is now called Alphabet City, and eventually they moved to a bigger shoebox in Jackson Heights, Queens.  Without being too crass, that family didn't deserve him.  If he didn't look so much like his dad I would have sworn he was adopted.  Maybe my dads tendency towards loving kindness and affection was a rejection of what he learned as a child.  He later had two daughters of his own, and like my mom, his only priority was to raise us up, up, up.  My dad, Phil, my hero, is the man who taught me how I wanted to be treated and respected and loved, especially by a man.  It's no big surprise that I found Jason, who shares the same affectionate, loving, gentleness as my pops.  I'm so honored to have both of them in my life.  I'm so honored to have all of the love that I have. 

So a day to celebrate all that?  I'm down.  But let's just remember if you don't have one particular someone, it might be a good day to celebrate all the others: the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends who broke your heart, only readying you for the next great love of your life. Or God, if that's what you believe in.  Or your pet.  Or your teacher.  Or yourself?  Any day to practice loving ourselves is probably good.  Is definitely good.

Homemade chocolate is generally pretty tricky, not unlike relationships.  But if you don't fuss too much, and just kinda go for it, knowing that chocolate is generally good and hard to mess up then you'll have something tasty, even if imperfect.  I'm no chocolatier, but my research suggests that chocolate is temperamental, like literally.  Chocolate acts differently under different circumstances, so you gotta know what you're working with.  We will be using dark chocolate chips (69% cocoa) .  In this recipe, I add coconut butter which is high in fat and helps the chocolate keep shape after refrigeration.  With this recipe, you don't have to worry too much if it'll turn out in the end.  It just will.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 Cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips/morsels (or whatever brand you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of hazelnut extract (or vanilla if you don't have on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a big ol generous pinch of chipotle powder
  • a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a double boiler, put the coconut butter in the pan and stir with a whisk until melty or soft and mixable.  If you don't have an official double boiler, take a small pot and fill with water.  Bring to a bowl, then add smaller pot so that it just rests in the bigger pots now boiling water and reduce heat.  This is important so the chocolate doesn't burn.  This is an official double boiler, this is what I have, and this is what you do if you have neither.  
  • Next, add the choco chips and stir consistenly over medium heat with a whisk, until melted.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the hazelnut, cinnamon and chipotle spice until mixed well.  
  • Now you need to quickly, evenly, and as smoothly as possible pour the chocolate into your mold.  I have this cute heart shaped one for Vagina Day.  I mean, Valentine's Day.  Whatever, same thing.  You can get one here, or any mold you have on hand will do.  I prefer the silicone, as it's a bit more forgiving to remove the chocolates once they're done.  
  • After, you need to take a scraper and smooth the top of the chocolates so there's an even line and they shape perfectly in the refrigerator.  
  • Place chocolate mold on cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum.  
  • Once the chocolates are ready, gentle pop them out of their mold and place on a flat surface.  Be careful not to handle them with your fingers so they don't leave a fingerprint.  
  • Mix the powdered sugar and however much cinnamon and chipotle powder you want with a fork in a small bowl.  Then take your duster and gentle sift over the chocolates.  
  • Best enjoyed dunked in your coffee or with a large dollop of peanut butter.  

I'll enjoy some of these while I think about how lucky I am that my dad sent me that card (above) for my birthday this year.  You're the flap in my jack too, Dad.  Peace and love e'ryone.  

Puppy Chow

©Alex Wolfe Photography

INGREDIENTS:

1 box of Chex Mix Cereal (you can get rice, corn, or both!)

1 bag of semi-sweet vegan friendly chocolate chips

1/4 plus 1 heaping TBSP of Earth Balance vegan butter (or you can make your own!  Look under "Trusty Resources" tab and find out how!)

1 cup of peanut butter 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

This is classic Puppy Chow.  No making it healthy, no fancy nut butters (though feel free to try it using almond or sunflower butter); like straight up 1999 party snack, heart attack in a brown paper bag.  You might remember this as the night you got diabetes.  So, just know that.  And if you feed this to your kids they will probably sleep again sometime around...never o'clock.  So know THAT, too.  This is great for a party, after a bad date, or just when your sweet tooth can't be satiated because you just smoked a fattie.  No joke, I've eaten so much of this I've puked. And I don't just meant that ONE time either.  

Part of the danger here is that it's just too easy to make.  So, let's promise each other something right now.  Repeat after me:

I, Alex (you, ________)

Solemnly swear

to only make this stoner stack

once a year

or as a gift for someone special

so long as there isn't too much time between the making of it and the delivering of it, otherwise I know I can't be trusted to be in the same room with it.

How to do?  Easy, peasy.  In a large bowl, gently dump the contents of one whole chex box. Put aside.

Next, in a medium size bowl add the peanut butter, chocolate and "butter."  Microwave for one minute and thirty seconds on high!  Then stir until melty and combined.  You can also do this on the stove top over medium heat; should take about two to three minutes (this would be preferable if this snack wasn't already designed to just kill you, so....)  Pour the chocolate mixture over the chex mix, tossing intermittently so that the cereal is evenly coated.  Don't be afraid to get your hands in there.  (That's what she said).

Lastly, dump the cereal mixture into a large brown paper bag (I used a Trader Joe's bag, and I think that might be gross?  But I wasn't sure, so I just did it.  I wasn't gonna tell you, but now I'm telling you and I feel a little vulnerable, so don't go shaming me or anything.  Please and thanks).  Once in the bag, pour about a whole box of powdered sugar (be sure to make sure it's vegan; non-organic sugars are often processed using animal bone char - blech!) . Close the bag and then shake it.  Shake it not so much like a polaroid picture, but rather like you're NOT supposed to shake a baby.  Hard and fast. (Oh, boy that's what HE said.  They are out of control, am I right?)

Transfer contents of bag to a baking dish and let cool.  

Eat SPARINGLY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  And don't forget our promise to each other ; )

Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake

© Alex Wolfe Photography

This choco-cake with ancho chili powder was delicious and had the perfect kick to it.  Thin and light, I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting (a crime I’m infamous for committing – next week we can all learn moderation together, this week?  We eat whole cakes for breakfast, and we ain’t scurred).

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup safflower oil (I used vegetable oil because it’s all I had in the pantry, whoops!)
¼ cup unrefined sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

CHOCOLATE SAUCE:
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
1 ½ cups vegan semisweet chocolate chips.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

When I cook, I like to get a couple of things straight in the kitchen first.

CLEAN!

I mean the dishes, the counter, no grocery bags hangin’ on the floor or table with no purpose – things must be orderly, or I go bananas (and not in the way that results in a dessert bread ; )

Next, I like to pull each of the ingredients that will be used in the recipe (as pictured above) – and if I’m really feeling Martha Stewart-y (and I pretty much always am) I even pre-measure them in my fancy kitchenware and put the giant bags of stuff back in their respective living quarters so all I have to do is dump and mix when the time comes.

The following instructions listed below come directly from the Candle*79 cookbook:

DIRECTIONS:

Makes two 9-inch cakes or 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush two 9-inch round cake pans with safflower oil and set aside.  If making cupcakes, brush a 12-cup muffin pan with safflower oil or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, ancho powder, and baking soda and mix well.

Oh, hi Kitchenaid.  You are so sexy and I love you more than life itself.   

© Alex Wolfe Photography

In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, maple syrup, safflower oil, sugar, and vinegar and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on wire racks.

S-N-A-C-K-B-R-E-A-K

Now, if you’re like me baking makes you hungry.  You know what they say about going to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  (For those of you who don’t, they say don’t do it).  Well the same applies to your baking.  Don’t bake a two layer chocolate cake and wait hungrily for it to finish and then make yourself a salad for dinner (or lunch or breakfast or whatever).  Why?  Because once the cake is finished the thought will arise: “I don’t really need to make dinner, I have this whole cake I can eat.”  So trust me, take a snack break and eat something healthy.  This way, your reasonably sized slice of delicious chocolate cake will satiate your sweet tooth without sending you over the edge.  And your body will thank you.

I made this salad pictured below.  It was yummy.  With massaged kale, brown rice and dill.  And guess what?  I only had 5 PIECES OF CAKE ANYWAY BECAUSE I HAVE A PROBLEM:

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Now where were we?  Oh right, the sauce!

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the soy milk in a saucepan over medium heat until very warm but not boiling.  Transfer to a blender.  Add the maple syrup and chocolate chips and blend until smooth.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Cut the cakes into wedges, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

A note from yours truly: the cake was a bit thinner than I expected, and so I decided to layer them for extra thickness.  Something you should know about me.  I am extremely detail oriented and wildly perfectionist (to a flaw) EXCEPT… when I’m not.  And that usually happens at random, for no good reason, usually out of laziness (a moment as I let the shame sink in).  So, alas.  Because I cooked these in a friend’s kitchen, using friend’s pans, I didn’t really bother to check the size of the cake pan.  Soooo, there’s a good chance those pans were bigger than 9” which would explain a lot.  Meaning, I hardly blame the recipe for flat cakes, delicious as they were, I can only blame myself for their consistency and shape.  But this is part of the fun of experimental baking.  When you were a kid and you accidentally drew with the red marker instead of the yellow (doh! How could you?!) you didn’t punish yourself – you rolled with it.  So I encourage you to do the same.