A quick chocolate lover’s dessert Wednesday, Apr 9 2014 

Well, it’s already April! Can you believe it — the snow here in PA has finally (mostly!) melted and Easter is not that far away. I will be perusing the farmers’ markets and planning my Easter menu — once I decide on whether to make a brunch or a more formal supper. And with the advent of some nice weather, not to mention both a flat of strawberries and a case of lemons from a good friend, I have been canning (yes!) and will be posting about that in the future. Meanwhile, come play in the kitchen!

I made up a quick and easy recipe years ago that turned out quite nicely. It became a family favorite, and I was getting request for it all of the time. Everyone thought it was completely complicated, but it is simple. I call it a Hershey Pie – so named because I used Hershey bars in the recipe, though I have successfully experimented with other chocolate. I am sure there are tons of similar ones, but this one was not pilfered – at least to my knowledge. I mean, back at its creation there was no internet! (My children now find that unbelievable…)

I was influenced by lots of recipes for chocolate silk pie that relied on chocolate mousse made with gelatin (and you know how I feel about that — see my post about chocolate mousse here: http://wp.me/p32HQ0-2x). So I tried to figure out how I could create something somewhat similar. I have to admit that this recipe was developed out of my commitment to bring a dessert to a family function, back when my tastes (and therefore skills and ingredients on hand) were not quite so…”sophisticated”? Not sure what word I want to use, but you get the idea…I was a young lady just entering the work force and felt the need to be as generous as possible with my commitments – usually so much so that I ended up awake for long hours every night finishing up this, that or the other and still trying to get enough sleep so that I didn’t need to caffeinate myself to death in the early a.m. This recipe was developed out of sheer desperation on a night when I needed more sleep than there were hours to devote to cooking…And I am still using it as a quick treat. I must warn you, though I attempted initially to duplicate a chocolate silk pie, t is not at all “silky”. Freezing the pie makes the chocolate and Cool Whip firm up, so you might want to set it out to soften about 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Hershey Pie

* Melt 2 of the large (4.4 oz) Hershey bars (I prefer the Hershey with Almond) in a double boiler. Be extremely careful not to get any water from the steam in the chocolate or it will seize up.

* Fold the chocolate into 1/2 of a large tub (16 oz) of Cool Whip.

* Pour mixture into a 9″ graham cracker pie crust and spread evenly.

* Top the chocolate mixture with the remaining Cool Whip.

* Sprinkle with shaved chocolate or slivered almonds.

* Freeze til set.

That’s it. Easy peasy. Very quick and simple. I appreciate the deep, rich chocolate flavor. As I said, I have experimented very successfully with other candy bars, and even using chocolate chips — but the Hershey bars are still my favorite. Is it because I’m blessed to live within 20 minutes of Hershey? Well, that doesn’t hurt! Try it and let me know what you think!

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A rebel cake… Tuesday, Feb 19 2013 

February 18th was my son’s 17th birthday. He was excited because he had off from public school (for Presidents’ Day). And he was excited because he made it into the local fire company (he can literally run there) as a junior firefighter (no more quiet moments in this house — I mean, should there have ever been any…). And he was excited because I baked his cake and designed it the way he wanted…

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I found the recipe I use in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, by Irma Rombauer, which is kinda my “go to” cooking manual, and finally tried it one day just to see if I liked it. I won’t give away all the intricacies of the recipe, but I will say that it is more than worth it to try! It does not take that much time, really — baking from scratch as opposed to a box is much better in my opinion (no artificial everything). But this recipe uses real chocolate, chopped and melted (4 ounces) and then mixed in with 3/4 cup mayonnaise, as opposed to using cocoa powder. While that may seem a little fussy, I think that it gives the cake an extra boost of chocolatey goodness that you just can’t always achieve with cocoa powder. I personally attribute this to the fact that the melted chocolate incorporates much more smoothly and evenly into the mayonnaise, so there are no little clumpy bits of cocoa (which always happens to me even if I sift! ugh!!!). Not to knock cocoa — it is delcious and works great in many recipes. But this particular cake’s taste really shines when using real chocolate.

So the cake was cooling — and stuck in the pan (ever suffer memory loss when baking and forget to grease and flour??). And I was trying to figure out the best method to achieve the particular design my teen country boy wanted for the cake. I chose to work with fondant, mostly because I thought the stars would be better cut than piped. At least by me. I’ve taken several Wilton courses, but time is just not always in my favor when trying to achieve birthday cake perfection. So a quick trek to Michael’s and I was able to procure fondant in a box. Not as exciting as homemade, and certainly not as tasty! Next time I will think things through a bit better to plan ahead. Of course, hopefully I won’t be recovering from a week of illness and scrambling last-minute to get stuff done. But que sera sera, right?! So, ever one to make the best of things, I bought the fondant. But the one benefit is that they make the stuff pre-mixed in colors, so I did not have to mess with red!

Anyway, this is what the finished product looked like:

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He liked it! So I count that a success…And since it’s just about gone, everyone thought it was quite tasty too!

The secret to chocolate mousse Wednesday, Jan 30 2013 

Well, I mentioned recently that I was interested in the cookbook challenge posted at http://growandresist.com/2012/12/21/cook-the-books-a-cookbook-challenge/. I had borrowed the January and February selections from my local library, devoured them page by glorious page recently when I was ill and stuck in bed, and then finally got into the kitchen today after finishing up chores, homeschooling and the like. I am so happy I did, with sweet results!

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I think Dorie Greenspan is my new hero…Her recipes sound so amazing, fresh and inspired. I cannot wait to purchase my own copy of her book Around My French Table so I don’t have to worry about ruining the library’s copy while I’m playing (messily at times) in my kitchen. Her stories are interesting and entertaining, as well as educational. But I will now forever love her for the inclusion of the top-secret chocolate mousse recipe. It is probably the best I’ve ever tasted — not to mention the absolute easiest! And hey, with such a large family and crazy life…Well, I’m all for easy! You will have to buy this book and try this recipe!

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I’ve been searching for a recipe for chocolate mousse for as long as I have been cooking. And I am so happy to have stumbled upon one that will live in my recipe files forever. So for the curious: What I liked about it…

Obviously “everything” is too general, so here’s my short list:

036First, all natural ingredients. By that I mean there are no boxes of pudding or canned anything or otherwise heavily processed, chemical-laden ingredients…It’s just chocolate, eggs, salt, sugar. That’s it. Simple. While I’ve seen other recipes that add cream, coffee or liqu0r of some kind — which I’m sure are delicious add-ins — this recipe would be great when you want to serve something elegant but fast. I always have those four ingredients handy…I mean, who doesn’t have a stash of chocolate, right??! (If you don’t, you need to start building a stash ASAP! Seriously!!!)

And guess what else catapulted this to my top fav chocolate mousse? Absolutely no gelatin of any kind — thank goodness! I despise working with gelatin…I don’t think it likes me. And I can only stomach it when doing jello shots (go figure!). It never sets up right for me. Ever. Which is sad because even my 8 year old son can get it to work. Plus, I’m trying to purge many animal products from our diet. I make an exception for the eggs because we own our own free-range chickens, thus I know where the eggs come from and how the chickens are treated, so no one needs to call PETA or anything. It’s totally legit and the chickens actually seem happy. I digress —

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This is definitely a keeper!!! My official recipe testers loved it and some were disappointed there were no seconds. I served it with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, though a dash of cocoa would have worked nicely too. It was very light but yet dense with chocolate, if that even makes sense. My palate was in heaven.

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What’s Cooking? Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Hi friends! I’m so excited to be kicking off the year 2013 with a new blog to address one of my passions in life — food — while utilizing one of my other passions, writing!

So here’s a quick bit about me — I am a certifiable gourmand, or foodie. At least I would say so. There are not many foods — except meats — that I won’t try. That’s not to say I don’t cook meat. I do, for the family – just not as often as I used to, both for financial and health reasons. Speaking of family…I am a wife and stay-at-home mom of six (yes, six!!!!) children. And that doesn’t include all the “extras” who find their way to my house whenever I am making supper or baking! I love to do redwork stitching, card making and a few other things in my “spare time” (haha! what’s that??!). My other passion is reading, and I mainly love to read cookbooks. I am especially drawn to cookbooks or magazine articles where the food has some kind of story behind it. It just makes it more interesting and intriguing to me.

So yeah, a lot of foodie things going on in my mind most of the time. I love to take a recipe and experiment if I can, or try to plate it in a way that gives it a new look. And I like to try to recreate dishes or things I enjoyed, such as chocolate covered candied orange slices (still perfecting the coating of chocolate). I also like to collect recipes from friends or other foodie blogs to try too. I made the best pitas ever that I found on a blog from my friend in Israel. Truthfully, sometimes it isn’t possible to keep up with my list of things to try in this crazy house, but I do dream of one day owning a bed and breakfast, or a quaint cafe…something like that where I can still play with my food!

The neighborhood kids always seem to end up here during the supper hour, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t flock here on a baking day. One of the things I’m known for in our little (ever-growing) circle is a special recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I inherited from my husband’s side of the family. For years we always called them “Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”. But I just found out over the 2012 holidays from my father-in-law that he found out the recipe was actually bachelor Uncle Dutch’s recipe. I believe it! The stories about that man are just fascinating! One story that I find…interesting…tells of Uncle Dutch and an exploit involving fishing. This is the way my hubby told me, and he got the story from someone else, so any errors in the story are sooooo his fault! (Sorry, Les!)

Any die-hard fisherman knows that sometimes a fish will shrink just a tad after it’s pulled from the water and sits a while. Here in Pennsylvania, there is a limit to how many trout you can catch at one sitting. Not sure how long the rule has been in effect, but they actually do tend to enforce it. Well, the fish warden came upon Uncle Dutch, who was trout fishing. He had one fish that the warden thought was just a tad under legal size, so he took him to court. The judge heard the case and fined him. Well, Uncle Dutch was a bit angry…the size difference was so miniscule that he was irritated with the warden for making such a big deal over it. So he asked the judge what the fine would be for punching the warden in the face. He was told $25, so he promptly paid the fine (which was $25) plus the $25 — and proceeded to punch the warden. Yep, right in the face! (Yeah, he was a bit of a character, for lack of a better word!!!)

So here is the tried-and-true recipe for Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (I really am too used to the name by now!). They are not flat and crisp like other chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve tried. Rather, they have a cakey light quality which makes them one of my favs. I should also note: my father loves these cookies! I have to set aside 1-2 dozen for him every time I make them! The yield really depends on the size you make them. I usually end up with around 5+ dozen, but that’s just me. Also, please excuse the lack of photos…I can’t keep these cookies around long enough to take any!

* Preheat oven to 375*F.

* Mix 1 tsp baking soda with 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 4 cups of flour. Set side.

* Cream together 2 cups light brown sugar with 1 cup butter-flavored Crisco (plain is fine too). Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate.

* Add in 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

* Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix well.

* Stir in 2 12-oz. bags chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional).

* Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or til lightly browned.

ENJOY!