Sunday, October 16, 2011

Girls Night Dessert!

I have wanted to make chocolate cups since I saw this post on bakerella, I just needed an event to make them for! So when we had a girls night dinner for Christmas, last year, I finally had the excuse I needed! I made two types of mousse to fill the cups with: peanut butter mousse and chocolate mousse. With a big group of girls, I think it's needless to say that they were a pretty big hit!

Chocolate Cup
Semi-sweet chocolate chips melted
Chocolate Almond Bark
Water balloons filled with air to the size you want your cups

Melt the chocolate mixture for dipping the balloons, blow up the balloons to the size you want, get a cookie sheet with parchment and put a little dollop of chocolate on the parchment paper for a base for the balloons to sit on. Dip the balloons in the chocolate and set it on the chocolate base. Let the chocolate cool.

 There will probably be thin spots from dipping where the chocolate layer is not even thickness. Take a basting brush or the back of a spoon and fill in the thin spots so that the bowl will be full thickness. If you try to pop the balloon with thin spots, the chocolate will tear instead of holding its shape.

When the chocolate has all hardened, pop the balloon and pull out the rubber from the shell! Voila, chocolate cups!

I used regular balloons, but since I only blew them up half way, when I popped them, they weren't super stretched out, so I had to pull the rubber out of the cup. I would recommend water balloons, they will be a bit more taught!

One awesome tip about dipping chocolate: whether it is strawberries or chocolate cups, I find that mixing half chocolate pieces and half chocolate almond bark (or even just 1/3 almond bark) keep the same taste while hardening harder and having a nice shiny coat when it cools!

Peanut Butter Mousse
1 cup cream cheese (softened)
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
4 T sugar
3/4 c. whipping cream
(whip to soft peaks and fold in)

With an electric mixer blend together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar. In a separate bowl whip the cream into soft peaks. Once soft peaks have formed, fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture!

Chocolate Mousse
2 packages of instant chocolate pudding mix
4 cups half and half

Follow the directions on the back of the pudding box for the amount of cream and pudding, using the half and half instead of milk. Now stop following the directions and use mine. Using electric mixer, beat together the pudding mix and half and half about 5 minutes until mousse forms. This is the absolute easiest chocolate mousse ever, but it is thick and rich! It's even thicker and creamier if you use cream instead of half and half... but that seemed just a little too indulgent for me with everything else we were eating at this particular girls night.

Once all the components are finished, layer the two mousse types into the chocolate cups and garnish with chocolate shards or curls! Pretty and delicious!

If anyone else tries this let me know how it turns out, for you!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Almost Mama's Chili

In past posts I may have made my mom seem like the worst cook on the planet... this, in reality, may have been a creative hyperbole. It's just a running joke in my family because my dad does most of the cooking. My mom does the baking.

My dad is a great cook... he taught me everything i know (almost), but he once tried to broil a cake for my mom... obviously NOT the baker of the family!

My mom, on the other hand, is great at baking. She makes a mean chocolate sheet cake, amazing almond poppy-seed bread, and so many others, but she is lacking in the creativity and guess work that my dad has in the cooking area. HOWEVER, there are about 3 or 4 things that my mom cooks extremely well, and she could do it with her eyes closed! One of these few things is her Chili! YUUUUUMMMM, Chili!

I grew up eating this chili at least a couple times a year in the winter, and it was always one of my favorites! So, naturally, when I moved out, I missed it and had to learn to make it on my own. The recipe changed a bit when moving hands from mother to daughter, but either recipe is great, comforting, and filling... a pot of it would feed me in college for about a week!

Enough of this though... here's the recipe:

What you'll need:
15 oz Brooks Chili Hot Beans
3 (8 oz) cans of tomato sauce
1.5-2 lb ground beef
1 medium white onion finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 Tbl. chili powder
1-2 Tbl. Sugar
Paprika (1/2 Tbl.)
Cumin (2 tsp.)
Nutmeg (1 tsp.)
Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
1-2 tsp. Salt (to taste)
Cayenne pepper for extra spicy-ness! (add slowly, to your specific heat preference)

Brown the ground beef, chopped onion, and garlic together in a pan. Once Onion and garlic are soft add 1 Tbl. of the chili powder to the meat mixture and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until browned.

In a big pot mix together the beans, tomato sauce, and a little water from rinsing each can. Simmer and mix together. When beef mixture is finished, stir it in.

Now comes the fun part: My mom's recipe is simple; it calls for salt, pepper, sugar, and chili powder...that's all! Simple right!

BUT I couldn't leave it that simple, I like to add a few more things! Definitely add in those ingredients (I use less sugar than my mom, though.)  In addition to my mom's recipe, I like to add a few more things... paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, and cumin.

How much of each? Well that's the subjective part... you get to decide that for yourself, I don't usually measure. Just sprinkle... taste... smell... repeat. If that scares you to death, I put some suggestions above in parenthesis. Keep in mind these are very rough estimates because I don't actually measure... ever.

Overall this recipe is extremely easy, fairly quick, and absolutely delicious! Everyone has their favorite way to eat chili and here are some of the best ways for this recipe:
  • My favorite: with Frito's and sharp cheddar cheese mixed in! Mmmm, Frito Pie!
  • My Dad's: Leftover chili over spaghetti noodles, chili-mac style
  • My boyfriend Ben: with a dollop of sour cream and LOTS of cheese
  • My sister's: with lots of Frito's and all the beans picked off to the side :)

Doesn't really matter, just find your favorite way, and enjoy on a cool fall or winter day!