Chocolate

Bread, Chocolate, Dessert

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SHORTBREAD

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We went out last night to pick up a tree. The kids were bundled and the packing blanket was in the back to protect the roof. This is the first year both of the kids are super jazzed about the holidays. Curran (4.5) is excited for new toys and allllll the colorful, tacky decor. I am told every day that the white lights we have on the house are NOT festive AT ALL. Cleo is excited about whatever Curran is excited about lately, so anytime we see lights (trees, wreaths, fake reindeer, whatever) squealing ensues. It was cute at first, and now it’s just… loud. But truly, I love it. The first few years of parenting are so much work, with few of those personal connections where you actually get to see your children as a people. The more I get to know them, the more I like them. Even the complicated, emotional parts. Anyway, their excitement is infectious, and their Scrouge McWhite-Christmas-Light-Preferring mother is even considering putting rainbow lights up somewhere… like inside their room ;)

Anyway, the tree. I had this romantic idea about the tradition of picking out a tree and how we would pick up dinner after and decorate it, fireside, with classic Christmas tunes. As it turns out, it was not the romantic vision I anticipated in my head. There was a time this would have wildly disappointed me, but kids have lowered my expectations for the better. We ended up at Costco which I love for many reasons, but rustic tree buying experiences is not one of them. I mean you can’t even see the trees, they are all wrapped in twine in bins and you just take a wild guess. Curran seems to be recovering from a minor concussion so complains and whines frequently, and I get that he doesn’t feel well, but, again, with the Cleo doing everything he does. Our dinner was underwhelming and by the time we got home, people needed to go straight to bed. They both screamed at the reality of needing to take a warm shower (how dare me!), and tucked away they went. There was no decorating, no songs, no fire.

I am not disappointed, this is life. When I think back about getting a tree and decorating it with my family, it was not some Norman Rockwell scene every time. Traditions and memories in their imperfect state are just as nostalgic for me as the ones where everything went ‘right.’ Fighting over whose year it was to put the angel on top, holding the twine down through the windows of the mini van to make sure the tree didn’t fly off, how all the limbs starting breaking off the clay wisemen in the manger scene and no one bothered to glue them back on, or the year a votive candle lit a garland on fire. I would maybe argue that the messy parts, the imperfect parts, are actually more interesting. I don’t think I even remember the moments that went as planned, if there were any. So Mr. Frankie, the bare, unlit, lopsided tree, is sitting in the living room, reminding me that all I want for this month is just to soak in the holidays and stay flexible. Mayyyyybe we’ll even put rainbow lights on him this weekend.

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CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SHORTBREAD

Makes 18

Recipe adapted from Real Simple

I made these a touch sweeter than the written recipe because well, it’s a holiday cookie. You could sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top while the chocolate drizzle is still soft and that should act as glue for the candies. If you have tried Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies , they are basically shortbread with a bit of baking soda to help them rise a bit. I’ve tried it here, but don’t think it changes them wildly, so it depends how dense or light you prefer your cookie. Add 1/2 tsp. if you want to try. These are snappy day one, and start to become more tender as they sit. Taste great either way, texture changes, just a fyi.

Ingredients

1/2 cup/1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour

3.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

flaky salt, for garnish, optional

Instructions

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, peppermint and beat those in to combine. Add the cocoa, flour and beat until just combined, do not over mix. Roll the dough into a log about 2” across (this is kind of hard, just do your best), wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, or overnight. Alternatively, you can roll it out and use cookie cutters to make shapes.

Preheat the oven to 325’ and line a baking sheet with parchment (maybe two, or work in batches). Slice the cookie log into 1/2” coins and arrange them on your baking sheet. They won’t spread much, but give them an inch between for safety. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just dry on the edges. They will look raw in the center but that’s ok! Pull them, and let them cool.

While they cool, melt the chocolate either in the microwave or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Drizzle it on top of the cookies, sprinkle flaky salt or peppermint candies, if using, and let the chocolate set.
Enjoy! Cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Chocolate, Dessert, Fall, Gluten Free, Snack, Winter

HONEY FUDGE

They are four and a half and almost three. My babies are potty trained, can buckle their own car seats, and clear their plates from the table. The crib will be passed to a friend next month and I’ve been donating the toys that seem, well, baby-ish. We finally went on a family vacation last month, where we all slept in one room and it was great - no one needed to sleep in the bathroom and the equipment we had to schlep along was minor. While still not easy (is it ever?), I feel like we’ve crossed some sort of parenthood threshold where I can breathe a little easier. The exhaustion scale is tipping more towards mental than completely physical as they become more little people and less baby.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Curran (4.5) is pretty emotional. High highs and low lows. Cries easily, loudly, and feels his 4-year old feels deeply. He LOVES to eat. Is not a toucher/cuddler. Thrives off quality time. A collector of gadgets and junk. He hoards his treasures in various bags, backpacks and cases, and takes them around with him everywhere… a little seasonly obsessive, like his father and my sister. Right now we’re in a police man season, so lots of walkie talkies, badges, the jacket, etc. Cleo adores him, but mark my words Curran will be the one keeping her out of trouble in high school.

She likes to pester him and scream at the top of her lungs if he tries to give her a dose of her own medicine. She LOVES cuddles and touches and passes out “I love you’s” generously. She has a will of steel. She insists on dressing herself in the clothes I like least in her closet and no matter the question, the answer is always “pink!” She has my favorite intonations and facial expressions. She is a charmer and a little bit crazy.

Both kids have beautiful blue eyes, are tall for their ages, are quirky, and look like each other, while not a spitting image of either parent. How wild it is to get to know them - to observe what makes them tick or make their eyes light up. These things are equally magical and incredibly frustrating, all in the scope of a day. I somehow feel surprised that we’re in a new phase. So much of the past few years has been head down survival, but gradually, I feel I can stop and SEE them now, instead of just keep everyone fed and alive. Does that make any sense? Obviously I’ve always been “aware” of them, but now, more so them as the people they are becoming. Anyway. It feels really special. Parenthood is pretty wild, in so many more ways than just being tired, like everyone tells you you’ll be. I feel extremely lucky to be their mom.

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Chocolate Honey Fudge

This honey fudge was from the first week of Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club and it was a raging success (shameless plug that I still think you should join because it’s been so neat to cook dinner along side people and share ideas). It is not often you can please all the dairy free, gluten free, egg free, honey eating vegans, and vegetarians all at once, but we’re working on it! Cheers, us.

As this may be the most favorited recipe I’ve ever written, I figured it needed to live here too.


RECIPE INGREDIENTS

2 ounces dark chocolate, well chopped
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch) or raw cacao, plus more for dusting
pinch of sea salt

1/3 cup honey plus 1 Tbsp. 
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate along the bottom of the pan. 

In a food processor or a strong blender, combine the almonds, cocoa powder and sea salt. Pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse sand, about 10 times. You want some crunchy bits of almonds. 

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coconut oil and bring it to a gentle boil. Stir to mix. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Add the almond mixture and the rice cereal into the wet mixture and stir to combine. Any extra add-ins would go in here. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, smooth the top and put it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour. 

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Dessert, Gluten Free, Chocolate, Snack, Feeding Babies

DATE + SEED BUTTER COOKIES

Date & Seed Butter Cookies . Mixer

I'll try to do another lunchbox post in a few weeks, as I get ready to send both off to preschool (tear! but also yay!). These would be a perfect addition, but I suppose they are a nice summer treat as well, while we're enjoying the last couple weeks of it. I personally can't wait to get back to a regular routine, while still having the beach weekends, warm nights, watermelon and corn. September here is my very favorite. 

I saw these on Dana's site a few weeks (months?) ago and haven't stopped thinking of them. We make nearly the exact ones, without the oats, and I figured it may be nice to have these in the repetoire here for all the nut-free people either by way of school rules or allergies. I generally prefer peanut butter to sunflower seed butter, but 'tis the season of lunchbox prep. 

Date & Seed Butter Cookies . Rolling
Date & Seed Butter Cookies . Dipped in Chocolate

DATE + SEED BUTTER COOKIES

Makes about 20-24 cookies

Recipe barely adapted from these and  Minimalist Baker

I make these pretty small so I can pack them in a lunch box, or use them for vegetable eating negotiations without bracing for a sugar high. They should be kept in the fridge as they fall apart and the coconut oil melts at room temperature. I'll make them without the cocoa dip for packed lunches to avoid the mess.
 

Ingredients

cookies:
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened seed butter
1 Tbsp. chia seeds, optional
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon

chocolate glaze:
3 T. coconut oil, to a liquid
1 Tbsp.. maple syrup
3 T. cocoa powder
 

Instructions

Put the dates and oats in a food processor and pulse a dozen times until well chopped and sticky. Add the seed butter, chia seeds, pinch of salt and cinnamon, and pulse a few more times. If mixture looks dry and crackly, add a splash of water or coconut oil, and pulse again until combined.

Line a plate with parchment paper. Roll the mixture into small, tablespoon-ish, sized balls. Press the centers down with the tins of a fork, cross hatched if you wish. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

 In a small bowl, stir together the coconut oil, maple and cocoa powder. Dip the cold cookies, halfway, into the cocoa mix. Replace them back on the plate and refrigerate again to chill. Keep them stored in the fridge until ready to eat. 

Date & Seed Butter Cookies . Sprouted Kitchen
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