Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars : A Carnival in Your Mouth

 

Book Club Time, and it is Halloween Book Club so that’s always twice as exciting. This month’s host picked Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

A frightening tale about a sinister carnival. A perfectly spooky book for a perfectly spooky party. Costumes were required. I took the easy route and was a Barker (ok I really looked like a ringmaster, but those are only in circuses) This was an easy costume, fake mustache, top hat, vest, bow tie, jacket, and some boots, I already had all of those in my costume box (yes I am a grown adult with a dress up box, I think all adults should have them)

 

So now I need food, I wanted to do something with a carnival feel so I thought these easy bar cookies would fit the bill since they have caramel and peanuts. They are easy to make and very portable, perfect for book clubs or parties. They were such a hit I made them again for a Halloween party the next day.

Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars

2 tubes of refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 cups salted peanuts

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup caramel sauce (ice cream topping)

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out sugar cookie dough onto a large sheet pan, using a rolling-pin sprinkled with four. I used a nonstick liner to make them easier to remove later. I also used a knife to cut straight edges after I rolled it out.

 

Bake dough in oven for about 12 minutes or until it is slightly golden, dough will still be soft in the middle.

 

Sprinkle the top with peanuts and chocolate chips. Then drizzle caramel sauce over the top.

 

Return them to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes longer or until cookie dough is firm and center begins to bubble. Let cool and cut into bars

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Nutella Glaze

 

Fall is here, time to use one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Nutella Glaze

1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree

1 c canola or vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 T vanilla

2/3 c water

3 c sugar

3 1/2 c flour

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t salt

1 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

1/2 t ginger

1 c chocolate chips

1/4 c Nutella spread

2 T powdered sugar

2-4 T milk

 

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a large bundt cake pan. In a large mixing bowl whisk together pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar. In a medium bowl stir together, flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add dry ingredients to wet gradually stirring until smooth.

 

Add chocolate chips and pour into prepared bundt pan. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

 

Let cake cool in pan. Meanwhile make Nutella glaze by whisking together Nutella, powdered sugar and milk. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. When cake is cool invert onto a plate or cake stand. Drizzle glaze over top and serve.

 

 

Easiest Dessert: Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Cream

 

I am not a baker, desserts and breads are hard for me. That’s why I love this easy dessert you make in a blender. This is a recipe favorite from Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh cookbook by Barbra Fairchild. The lemon cream goes perfectly with the dark chocolate mousse but if you prefer use milk chocolate chips instead of dark and vanilla extract (1 t) instead of the lemon juice in the cream. This recipe is doubled from the original recipe in the cookbook and made 6 servings.

Blender Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Cream

2 c chocolate chips ( I used 1 cup good dark chocolate chips and 1 c milk chocolate)

1 1/2 c water

6 T sugar divided

1/2 t instant espresso powder (or instant coffee)

6 large egg whites

2/3 c chilled heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

 

Place chocolate chips into a blender. Bring water,  4 T sugar and espresso powder to a simmer in a sauce pan, stir to dissolve coffee and sugar. Pour over chocolate chips in blender. Cover tightly and blend for 5-10 seconds. Add egg whites and cover and blend on high for 1 minute. Pour into glasses or bowls and chill until mousse is set. Mine took about 2 hours.

 

For Lemon Cream:

whisk cream, lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons of sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until small peaks form, add dollop to top of the mousse.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Toffee Popcorn Balls and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

This past weekend was yet another fun and memorable book club meeting. The book was The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin. It is historical fiction, my favorite, and told the tale of Vinnie Bump, a perfectly proportioned, little person who was only 2 ‘ 8 ” but never let that stop her from getting what she wanted. Born to a farming family in New England who sheltered her from society, Vinnie knew she wanted more, she took risks and left the safe haven of her home to find adventure and fame. She ended up becoming an icon and celebrity who traveled the world thanks in part to a man named P.T Barnum. I was shocked to find out how much of this story was actually true, and amazed by her strength and courage, even if she was slightly selfish and cold hearted at times.

I had trouble thinking of a dish for this meeting, She does travel to New Orleans and mentions Gumbo, but that is an all day affair. And also not really a good food for book club, we tend to do more snacks, and small appetizers that are easy to share and eat on your lap while discussing the book.

Luckily my Martha Stewart, Everyday Food magazine came a couple of days before the meeting and had a recipe for popcorn balls, perfect, small single servings that were easy to make and went along with our theme, Vinnie, the heroine of the book was actually in the circus for a short time.

Chocolate Toffee Popcorn Balls

2 T butter

10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows

10 c popped corn

1/2 c heath toffee pieces

1/2 c toasted almonds

1/2 c mini chocolate chips

sea salt

Make sure you have your popped corn ready and toast your almonds in a dry sauté pan over low heat for about 4 minutes of until fragrant and slightly colored and set aside. In a large pot melt butter over med heat, add marshmallows and stir until melted, remove from heat and add popcorn,almonds, toffee pieces and chocolate chips stirring with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon sprayed with cooking spray until evenly coated. Spray hand with cooking spray and form small balls with the mixture and place on waxed paper to cool (about 10-15 min). Sprinkle with a small amount of sea salt if desired.

Serve or store in an airtight container.

Late Night Snack: S’mores Popcorn

I saw an idea for S’mores popcorn on Pinterest but the link was broken so I don’t know who thought of this or who to give credit to. All I know is that I was shopping in my local market and these cute Honeymaid mini graham crackers were on sale, it made me think of the popcorn I saw so I decided to give it a try. The original picture on pinterest used Golden Grahams so if you have those on hand I am sure they would work just fine.

4 cups popped corn

1 1/2 cups mini graham crackers

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup chocolate chips

2 T half and half

Melt chocolate chips and half and half  in a double boiler.

Put graham crackers, marshmallows and popcorn in a large bowl and toss with hands to mix together. using a spoon drizzle chocolate over mixture and stir until it is all incorporated.

Serve immediately. Would be perfect for kids sleepovers, and late night snacks.

Pinspired: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake

My Pinspiration this week was a little snack cake with a familiar flavor combination, peanut butter and chocolate. I found this on Pinterest last week but the original recipe can be found here at Bake or Break. This was easy and delicious and not too sweet. Perfect for a mid morning or afternoon snack. It reminded me of the Snackin Cakes by Betty Crocker that my mom used to make back in the 70’s.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake, from Bake or Break

2 1/4 cups of flour

2 c brown sugar

1 c creamy peanut butter

1/2 c (1 stick) of softened unsalted butter

1t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 c milk

1 t  pure vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease or spray a 9×11 pan.

In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, peanut butter, and butter using an electric mixer.

Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Mix in baking powder and soda, then add milk and vanilla mix until combined, and then add one egg at a time while mixing.

Pour batter into baking pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips and reserved batter mixture on top.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.