Tag Archives: chocolate

salted brown butter crispy treats with bittersweet chocolate

We are suckers for some good old-fashioned rice crispy treats. Yes, we are lazy vegetarians when it comes to marshmallows. It’s the s’mores in the summer and rice crispy treats that do it. My favorite variety is peanut butter crispy treats with chocolate chips. When I realized I had somehow never seen Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for salted brown butter crispy treats, I realized I needed to broaden my horizons in the world of rice crispy treats. Brown butter!

I may have detracted a little from the subtle flavor of the brown butter by smothering these in chocolate. I melted a cup of bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips and dipped the already cooled and sliced treats into it before sprinkling the tops with espresso salt. They were heavenly.

So what next? Nutella? Salted caramel? Cocoa puffs? What is your favorite variation on the rice crispy treat?


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Northwest Chocolate Festival: Part II

Did you miss Part I? For some of our favorite vendors and our thoughts on coffee & chocolate, basil & chocolate, and even broccoli & chocolate, check out the first post.

Before anything else, I’m just going to get this out of the way:

Some sensual body art happened. In case you’re wondering how those thin slices of vegetables stick, the answer is that the artist licks them. And yes, we did watch for awhile.

These are cacao pods:

We saw lots and lots of cacao pods. They come in different varieties and therefore a variety of colors. They also change colors as they ripen. It wasn’t all that long ago I really had no idea how chocolate was grown and processed. Then we went on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle. I always recommend this to people visiting town or as a fun date or family activity for locals. They show you where chocolate comes from and how they roast it. Oh, and you get to eat a lot of their amazing chocolate.

At the Northwest Chocolate Festival, we learned even more about how chocolate begins. We got to see the parts of the cacao pod up close and personal. As gardeners and bee keepers, it was interesting to learn there is only one pollinator, the tiny midge fly. The flowers are open for only two days before they drop off. In that time a tiny midge fly has to pollinate it, and it takes five or six months to form one of these pods that each contain only 20 to 40 beans.

Above is a pod with the beans removed. I was fascinated when a volunteer told us the piece left in the middle where the beans had been attached is called a placenta. And next are the beans removed from the pod, still covered in mucilage:

Mucilage sounds pretty gross, right? It seemed a little less gross when we read the description on one of the posters at the fest: a sweet fruit called mucilage that tastes similar to a mix between peach, marshmallow and lechee fruit.

Okay, yum. In the photo above they were doing a little fermentation experiment in a beaker on a heating pad. In reality, at the plantations where they are grown the beans still covered in mucilage are carefully fermented and dried. Without fermenting, the beans are bitter. Pretty cool, huh?

We also got to see cacao nibs turned into chocolate old school style. Stone ground! They just mixed in a little bit of powdered sugar, and we got to try a taste. Stone ground chocolate has a grittier, toothsome texture that is actually quite good. We tried and really enjoyed several flavors of stone ground chocolate from one of the vendors, Taza.

Taza Mexican-Style Stone Ground Chocolate

I’ve seen this stuff at our co-op here in Olympia and plan to figure out a use for some ASAP.

Our only complaint about the festival would be how challenging it was to get into any of the classes or demonstrations. There was way more demand than seats. We showed up 25 minutes early to the caramel demo and were too late. We learned our lesson and strategized better the next time around. We really wanted to see a cooking demo about the savory application of chocolate, so we stood in the back for half the preceding demo so we could grab seats as they opened up. Chocolate lovers are serious business.

We might have been disappointed after all that effort when the savory chocolate dish was not vegetarian, but at least Levi got to enjoy one of the smoked bacon and chocolate crespelles. He rated it an 8 out of 10, and he is a tough judge. We enjoyed learning more about making crepes from scratch. They used cocoa powder, hazelnut meal, and a little quinoa for texture. The crepes were stuffed with chocolate, sage, and smoked bacon, folded twice and refried in butter. The recipe is online here, and I hope to try it soon. I might even have to attempt a savory chocolate dish using chanterelles and a little smoked cheese. If only there had been a chocolate and cheese pairing demo!

We had tons of fun at the festival. Since it was $20 per person and we ate so much chocolate, we tried not to bring any chocolate home. Levi was so impressed by Ritual Chocolate made in Colorado (with only two ingredients: chocolate and cane sugar), he pulled out his own money and brought home one of these bars:

This kid rarely has money to spend, so that’s a strong statement.


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Northwest Chocolate Festival

Somehow this is the third year we’ve had a chocolate festival nearby and we just found out about it this year. The three of us piled into the car and headed to Seattle with high hopes. We were not disappointed by the Northwest Chocolate Festival.

First we managed to squeeze our way into the chocolate and coffee pairing demonstration put on by Zoka Coffee and Intrigue Chocolates Co.. What exactly do you look for in a good pairing? What I took away was that each one should make the other better, and what fun to experiment with different flavors. It was most notable when we slurped our coffee (I wish I could recall which one) with the earl grey truffle. Whoa, suddenly there were brand new layers of flavor in my mouth!

We made sure to stop by the Intrigue table so we could try the basil truffles. The chocolatier had talked them up; basil bringing up the nostalgia of grandma’s kitchen and a summer garden. Basil and chocolate – who knew? It’s incredible. We will be taking a field trip to the Intrigue shop in Pioneer Square for sure.

As we wandered from one vendor to the next, I pressured Jess and Levi into trying samples of chocolate with broccoli. They hated it. I thought it was… interesting. Not terrible, but certainly not something I plan to explore further.

Nobody had to twist my arm to try Olive and Sinclair’s Salt & Pepper chocolate. I loved it. No surprise there, really. I love good ol’ cracked black pepper. I’ve tried black pepper soda, so why not chocolate? This company is from Nashville, and they have some quality southern chocolate. I see on their site they have a buttermilk white chocolate bar coming soon. I need to try that. And maybe order a whole bar of salt & pepper, too.

So what makes chocolate exceptional? After reading a lot of informational posters and tasting a lot of chocolate, we all agreed that we truly appreciate these chocolate nerds artisans who perfect their roasts. We tried some raw chocolate samples and hated them. Levi couldn’t stop talking about how you couldn’t really taste the chocolate, you were just tasting the flavors they added. Then we tasted some chocolates made from the same variety of beans from the same part of the world roasted different ways. Mmm, dark roast!

Next we fell in love with Hot Cakes Confections.

Exhibit A: they were smoking chocolate outside. We never did get to try any, but how cool.

Exhibit B: their vintage van

Exhibit C: take and bake molten chocolate cakes in MASON JARS!

It looks like we will have to visit some Seattle area Farmer’s Markets to find more.

It goes without saying, we ate a lot of chocolate. In fact it was so much chocolate, we had to take a lunch break and go get some vegan Chinese food before going back for more. There is so much to show you, it is too much for one post. We will have a little more of Northwest Chocolate Fest to share with you tomorrow.


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day twenty-nine

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.78 yesterday, January 30, 2011.

Uh-oh, only one more day after this! Are you going to miss us?


8 ounces TJ’s organic plain yogurt $0.70
1/4 cup cocoa hazelnut granola $0.22
2/3 banana $0.17


tempeh & fried egg sandwich with sprouts & chipotle aioli $1.31
mineola $0.42


red bean chipotle burgers on multigrain buns $1.11
baked onion rings $0.85

total $4.78

Whoa, that cocoa hazelnut granola recipe rules! And bonus points for being cheap yet decadent. We wanted to make some homemade organic cane syrup, but it always seems to come down to time. Even though it was not advised, we subbed honey to keep things simple and it still tasted great. I was surprised this was so cheap, hazelnuts and all. We are keeping the serving size small to keep it healthy. If you’re curious about nutrition, Jess calculated the info.

Those burgers were pretty great, too. It is tough to find a good veggie burger recipe. We are trying not to get all of our protein from soy, and trying not to buy so much processed food. There is so much highly processed “health food” and vegetarian products on the market today. It’s great to have that option, but we’re trying to do better as much as we can. I used chickpea flour as my flour of choice for the recipe. They definitely tasted like bean burgers, but they were good, flavorful bean burgers. Good thing we liked them, because I made a double recipe which will be four dinners for our family. At 22 cents a pop, they sure do make Boca Burgers seem like something we won’t need to buy for a very long time.

And holy crap, BAKED ONION RINGS! Those were the highlight of the meal. Maybe not as good as the real deal, but unbelievably close. Thanks, Martha.


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day twenty-five

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $2.74 yesterday, January 26, 2011.


whole wheat peanut butter waffle $0.18
2 tablespoons maple syrup $0.15
banana $0.25


tempeh curry $0.66
1/2 cup cooked quinoa $0.18


leek & potato soup $0.52
1/3 block baked high protein tofu $0.66


2 peanut butter no bake cookies $0.14

total $2.74

Leeks! We haven’t taken much advantage of our rule that stuff from our garden is free during this project. Even though we try to change up our garden, leeks are something we will probably grow every single year. Leeks are not cheap, never mind organic leeks. We have a ton of them despite our less than stellar gardening weather this past year. Go leeks!

This soup tastes like a big bowl of buttery leeks and creamy potatoes. The orange color comes from carrots. We used vegan bouillon cubes instead of chicken broth and omitted the bone marrow. To keep the cost down we also used dried dill. We splurged on organic carrots and potatoes. And with the biggest expense, the leeks, being free, it was only 52 cents per bowl.

Our cost for the day was so low we decided to go for dessert, and our friend Patrice’s chocolate oatmeal refrigerator cookies had reminded me of the cookies my dad used to always whip up without warning when we were kids. There are about a billion recipes online for chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies.

Now that I’ve made them as an adult, I get why my dad loved to make them. They are super delicious, incredibly cheap, and take like five minutes to make. Seriously, you dump a few ingredients in a pot, bring it to a boil, boil for a minute, and then stir in peanut butter, oatmeal, and vanilla. You do have to wait a bit for them to set up, but you can speed the process up in the fridge or freezer. They are sugary, fattening cookies. They aren’t exactly healthy, but as far as cookies go, at least these ones have some protein and fiber.


2 cups sugar $0.50
4 tablespoons cocoa $0.32
1 stick butter $0.63
1/2 cup milk $0.13
1 cup peanut butter $0.64
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal $0.59

Makes 40 small cookies (we made a half batch and got 20).

Total $2.81
7 cents per cookie

The only ingredient I haven’t priced is vanilla. We don’t do Costco, but we buy a big bottle of vanilla at the local restaurant supply store (you don’t have to pay to shop there!) and it lasts an eternity.


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chocolate peanut butter smoothies

The milkshake of smoothies. A meal in a glass. Have it for breakfast, although it’s sweet enough for dessert.

Per person, throw the following in your blender:

1 fresh banana $0.25
1 frozen ripe banana, chopped $0.25
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter $0.11
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa $0.12
1/2 cup almond milk $0.13

total: $0.86

Full nutrtion information here, calculated via sparkpeople.com recipe calculator.


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We had a pretty low-key Valentine’s Day around these parts. Levi was off with his dad. Like just about every holiday lately, I had to work. Sometimes this is great, like the 14 time-and-a-half hours I got on President’s Day. And sometimes it is not so great, like you get a lot less cuddling on Valentine’s Day. We made the best with the hours we had and made an indulgent dinner and dessert to celebrate.

Jess made little hearts on our pizza out of banana peppers and pineapple. And by the way, Andrea, the jar made a great noise when we broke the seal and we’re still alive, so I’m pretty sure you are badass at canning.

Next we made The Pioneer Woman’s baked fudge. It is sort of like an extra gooey brownie. And it was the simplest dessert I can remember making that tasted so good.

It took about five minutes to mix the ingredients and put them in some ramekins and into a pan of water.

50 minutes later the whole house smelled incredible.

And then our favorite ice cream in the world on top. Ben & Jerry’s Creme Brulee. Custardy ice cream with giant swirls of carmelized sugar. Oh man.

Best dessert ever.

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