The chocolate is strong with this one

My toddler is a true chocoholic, much like her mama.  On the one hand it’s great because who doesn’t like having a chocolate buddy, but on the other hand it poses a challenge because most things chocolate also contain dairy.

For dessert on Thanksgiving I tried out a 3-Ingredient Dairy Free Fudge from the Pretty Bee.  It didn’t set as well as I’d hoped but popping it in the freezer helped in a pinch.  Emily LOVED it.  The best part was that it took five minutes to prepare.

Last weekend I took it a step further and made ice cube tray truffles.  If you’ve never seen these, they’re little truffle-like candies you make using ice cube trays.  I studied a few different tutorials and combined the steps/methods from several of them, but in a nutshell here’s what I did.  I melted dairy-free chocolate over the stovetop and filled each “cube” of an ice cube tray about 1/3 of the way with the melted chocolate.  Then I dropped a small dollop (about 1-1.5 tsp) of cookie butter into each cube, and then I filled them the rest of the way with more chocolate.  I put them in the freezer for several hours and took them out to thaw about ten minutes before serving.

THEY.  WERE.  AMAZING.

Keep in mind it was pretty dark chocolate, being dairy-free and all, but Emily took one bite and immediately demanded more.  She ate two full ice-cube sized truffles and sobbed furiously when I cut her off because her bedtime was right around the corner.

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The truffles, like the fudge, were a five-minute project.  I’m going to make more this week to give out as Christmas gifts and I plan to fill them with a variety of things, like caramel sauce and almond butter.

Clearly I’ve spent a lot of time cooking with chocolate lately.  I’ve considered making some vegan sugar cookies to decorate for Christmas but I tend to ruin them even when they’re not vegan so I’m still on the fence.

As if cooking from scratch daily and working full time and being a rockstar allergy mom all wasn’t enough, I recently opened an Etsy shop and also launched the Idaho Food Fighters Facebook page.  My husband just got sucked back into the Candy Crush realm and I refuse to go down with him, so I’m trying to be more productive instead.  *Laughs maniacally as I drink another pot of coffee*

And is anyone else floored by the fact there are only 15 days left until Christmas?  My shopping is DONE (it’s a Christmas miracle!) but I still have to wrap everything….or rather, I still have to double-wrap everything because the toddler is anything but gentle with the gifts currently under the tree.

Hope you all have a great week ahead of you!  If you have any good vegan sugar cookie recipes, send them my way.  I promise I’ll try not to ruin them.

Ninjas and Gingahs

Christmas was quite good to me this year. My parents’ gifts to me and my husband were a Ninja Mega Complete Kitchen System and a set of embarrassingly nice steak knives. I’m not lying to you when I say I almost cried when my husband unwrapped the Ninja set. As soon as we returned home, we packed our old blender and its components into a box and threw it in the big trash can in the garage.   Good riddance.

I haven’t yet cooked anything that requires the use of the new steak knives, but my Ninja is almost the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. All of this is to say, you might expect it to make some appearances on the blog in the near future. I mean, the things that system can do!

For Christmas, I was tasked with preparing dessert. My father is a diabetic and a dialysis patient, so his diet is extremely limited. Since gingersnaps are among his favorite cookies, I chose a recipe from the DaVita dialysis website for some soft ginger cookies. Remember my recent post about my peppermint cheesecake cookies that tasted delicious but fell horribly flat? Well, I’m happy to report that I actually learned something from the experience. Here’s what I did differently with the ginger cookies:

  • Used butter softened at room temperature—not butter melted in the microwave.
  • Was ridiculously careful not to overmix the dough.
  • Chilled the dough in the fridge for several hours before baking it.

The cookies were so, so soft and didn’t fall flat at all! YAY!

Fresh out of the oven...

Fresh out of the oven…

Cooled, but not flat!

Cooled, but not flat!

Once they cooled, I transferred 28 cookies into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. After Christmas dinner, the five of us—my husband, my stepson, my parents, and myself—busted into the cookies as we played Aggravation. By the time the game was over, only four cookies remained. Five people, 24 cookies…you do the math.

Now, I will leave you with the Barf of the Week, courtesy of the above cookies:  Diarrhea Dough!

If only real diarrhea smelled this good.

If only real diarrhea smelled this good.

Amateur Candy Cane Pounder: or, Peppermint Cheesecake Cookies

Although I love to bake, I don’t do it very often. One reason is that it’s usually time consuming, and the other is that it would soil my plan of maintaining a healthy body weight. I typically channel my inner baker only for birthdays and holidays. And—oh my—Christmas is just around the corner!

I hadn’t thought much about baking any Christmas goodies yet this year. But I’ve been watching the Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network, and…well, try watching that show without getting a deadly craving for baked goods. Yesterday I finally made a date with Google to find a yummy recipe.

In an ideal world, I would have baked a cake. I LOVE CAKE. But the husband doesn’t care for cake, and for some reason I decided to be a nice wife and bake something we’d both enjoy. (Santa, are you taking notes?)

I settled on some Peppermint Cheesecake Cookies. My husband has been buying enough candy canes to warrant purchasing stock in Ferrara Candy Company, and everyone in my house just loves cheesecake. Win!

After a trip to the store to pick up some missing ingredients, my stepson asked if he could help bake the cookies. Ten years old and still wants to help me bake cookies—heart, please don’t melt! Of course I took him up on the offer.

The recipe calls for peppermint baking chips, which—of course—I couldn’t find at the grocery store. Why is there always ONE stupid ingredient you can’t find? Well, I’m an improviser if nothing else, so I purchased a ginormous peppermint candy cane for making my own peppermint chips.

The kiddo and I prepped the ingredients and while he mixed the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and pudding mix, I readied the candy cane for smashing.

Shit just got real.

Shit just got real.

I’m here to tell you, the way to a ten-year-old boy’s heart is to give him a candy cane and a mallet.

Before I tasked my stepson with the smashing of the candy cane, I took the first whack to make sure it would work. I hit it far too hard and sent shards of peppermint flying in every direction. Oops.

I think I broke it.

I think I broke it.

I gave the mallet to my stepson and instructed him not to hit too hard, and he gladly went to work breaking up the candy cane into little shards. While he created our impromptu peppermint chips, I mixed the flour into the batter until it made a nice, buttery cookie dough.

Boys and their tools...even in the kitchen.

Boys and their tools…even in the kitchen.

After several minutes, the candy cane was completely smashed but most of the shards were still pretty large. When we tried to smash them into tinier bits, they flew outward and landed on the floor, which excited my puppy to no end. Finally, I told my stepson to stop because I was tired of intercepting the dog’s consumption of the peppermint. Only then did the little light bulb come on. AHA!

I scooped up the peppermint shards and tossed them into my mini food processor. Within seconds, we had perfectly tiny peppermint bits to fold into the dough. What did I ever do without my food processors?

Eat my dust.  No really, it's delicious.

Eat my dust. No really, it’s delicious.

The dough made 24 beautiful cookies. After an agonizingly long cool-down, I split one cookie into thirds and we all taste-tested it. Delicious!

Yum times infinity.

Yum times infinity.

The only thing that disappoints me is that in the pictures in the recipe, the cookies are nice and puffy and look perfect—yet my cookies fell very, VERY flat. They still taste glorious, but damn it, I want my cookies to stay puffy!

I found this thread on Chow about preventing cookies from falling flat and it looks like there are several reasons mine turned into pancakes. For instance, I softened my butter a bit in the microwave and the bottom of it (but not the whole stick) straight-up melted. Since I had the kiddo do most of the mixing while I was measuring ingredients, the batter might have been over-mixed. Lastly, in hindsight I realize I probably should have chilled the dough a bit longer before sticking it in the oven.

Still, the cookies taste amazing. I guess I’ll just have to make another batch next weekend and see if I can make them stay puffy.  😀

 

 

Last Tree Standing

This was our Christmas tree two years ago:

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We had put it up a couple of days prior and we were rightfully nervous about it from the start. Reasons included:

  • Our cat Winston had tried his damnedest to conquer the tree the previous year. Anti-chew spray, tin foil around the base, and citrus scent—all touted to keep cats away from Christmas trees—did nothing. Zilch. Nada.
  • Our other cat, Orville, was still a kitten, and quite the playful one at that.
  • It was our first Christmas with two cats. ‘Nuff said.

The third night or so after we put up the tree, I awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. From the hallway, I saw a giant shadow in the middle of the living room floor and immediately had a bad feeling. I took a detour to check it out and sure enough, the tree was lying on its side with ornaments scattered in every direction.

F*%#ing cats.

But I love them to death.

We learned the next morning that the artificial tree was actually busted. In two places. Sadly, it was broken enough that we had to trash it. Last year we moved into a new house just before Christmas and without an existing tree, we decided not to even bother. It was the Bah-Humbuggiest Christmas we’ve ever had.

This year, we’re back in the full swing of Christmas decorating. The lights are up outside, faux pine garlands are strewn about, and our gorgeous new tree has been up for FIVE days!

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Five days might not seem like much and it’s still too early to assume it’ll still be standing on Christmas morning. Although our kitten is now a mature adult cat with little interest in the tree, we do have a puppy this time around.

When we purchased the tree, the nice cashier at Home Depot asked if we wanted the two-year replacement warranty for $18. She explained that if something were to happen to the tree over the next two years, if Home Depot can’t fix it, they’ll replace it. My husband and I shot each other a sly glance and asked her, “Does it cover dogs?” She guessed it doesn’t, so we passed. But so far (I repeat, so far) Samantha has left it alone.

Winston, on the other hand, thinks it’s a salad bar.

Other than awaking to a few ornaments (shatterproof, I might add) that have been knocked off during the night, the tree has been safe and sound. I’m not ready to let my guard down quite yet, but I’m not horribly pessimistic.

Samantha was quite baffled by the Christmas decorating process. But she does make quite the fashion statement with bubble wrap.

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I'm watching you two...

I’m watching you two…