Interactive Chocolate Tasting

It’s that time of year. There are about to be tons of holiday parties and get togethers over the course of the next 9 weekends, beginning with Halloween and going strong all the way through New Years. Many of these gatherings will be cocktail parties, where you make contact with a bunch of people but never really get to spend any quality time with any one person. Especially if you are hosting. So I really wanted to think of a way to connect with my guests should I choose to host something this year. And instead of serving a cocktail, which I know most of my regular readers are like, “Dude! That’s like your thing!” I’ve opted for a totally different beverage. Almond Milk.

Interactive chocolate tasting.Especially during the holidays, I crave time with my girlfriends. So I think a sit down dinner, for my closest pals, would be perfection. I’m not going to pretend that I would make all the food. No way, Jose. There are plenty of restaurants that put together a nice little spread that is super tasty. But my focus would really be on the dessert course. I’ve been wanting to host a really interactive dinner party for a while. You know, to get people off their phones and actually talking and working together? So I think an interactive chocolate tasting dessert course would be a wonderful idea. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate? And while there may be (there WOULD be) wine before and during dinner, dessert is going a different direction.

Set up a chocolate tasting for the dessert course of your next dinner party.To demonstrate how this chocolate tasting would work I picked up four different flavors of chocolate from Whole Foods (Hey chocolate lovers – Whole Foods has a ridiculous selection of chocolates. Just maybe refinance your house before you go…). Instead of making sure each person gets a piece of each flavor, each guest would have only one flavor of chocolate at their place setting. Then the guests would have to ask each other for their chocolate in order to taste them all. And only the host would know the flavors so the guests will have to talk to figure out what flavors are present. You guys, they make the weirdest flavors of chocolate bars now a days. This isn’t ground breaking, I realize, but sometimes we just need to be reminded to interact with people. Consider making a no-phones-at-the-table policy. And just think of how funny this could get. I mean, who would even guess that there were Pop Rocks in your chocolate bar?!

Silk Almond Milk for a dinner party. #sponThe perfect drink to serve with the chocolates is Silk Almond Milk. I went with the Unsweetened version but Vanilla would also work well. In fact, I know some people prefer the Vanilla over the Unsweetened because it adds a touch of sweetness to it. Since I don’t like sweet beverages (which us supes weird because I have the biggest sweet tooth ever, I prefer the Unsweetened. Over the summer I did this “cleanse” diet before my trip to Mexico. It wasn’t a typical cleanse, more of a really paired down diet of mostly roughage to clean out your system. And it allowed for some snacks and treats, totally my kind of cleanse. One of the treats was a glass of Almond Milk and some dark chocolate squares. YOU GUYS! It was so good and satisfying! I first tasted Almond Milk a long time ago and I was not a fan. But I’ve realized, over the years, each brand tastes a certain way and, by far, Silk is my favorite. Have you ever tried Almond Milk? You totally should. And if you have and you didn’t like it, try it again!

Interactive chocolate tasting to end a dinner party.The Silk Almond Milk acts sort of as a palette cleanser between chocolate flavors. And the unsweetened version is perfect for cutting the sweetness of the chocolate. Some of your guests might be expecting something a little more, fun, shall we say. And you can easily jazz their glass up with a splash of Kahlua or Bailey’s. I view this chocolate tasting as the gateway to being an Almond Milk convert. After trying it with the chocolate, I knew I could easily replace regular milk with Almond milk in just about every capacity. Except for my coffee. Give me the cream and nobody gets hurt.

Share chocolates with your friends and interact to find out what the flavors are. Put down your phones! #sponThe underlying point of this tasting is to try to remind our friends how much fun we could be having with each other, in real life. Not online and not on our phones. And there is lots to talk about with the chocolate. I mean, one of the chocolate flavors had cinnamon and bacon. That’s going to elicit some conversation for sure. And then the one filled with banana caramel and topped with pecans and pink salt? Yeah, there’s going to be some tasting notes about that one. And it’s always fun to surprise your guests with a little spicy chocolate which is my fave.

Dessert course with Silk Almond Milk. #sponI put out a centerpiece with pretty macaroons and macarons (because I think it’s funny to have both) along with a carafe of Silk Almond Milk for refills. Some people might not be as fond of chocolate as I am (but they are crazy and should probably not ever be invited again…) so it’s nice, as the hostess, to put out another option. And the colorful cookies add to the table decor. This might just be the easiest dessert course for a dinner party ever. But I love that the focus is on being with your friends and working together in the name of chocolate.

Pink and pretty dinner party.Want to try Silk Vanilla Almond Milk? Sign up for their eNewsletter and receive a coupon to try it for free. You’ll also be entered to win prizes each month, so you should probably go do it. I’ve been getting the newsletter for a few months now and I have to say, they do it right. Their newsletter always looks great, has tons of awesome info and they aren’t bombarding you with their product promotions all the time. I’m not kidding, try it with chocolate. So good! I love my Silk. And I think you will too.

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Delicious Dessert Ideas with Ice Cream

*This post is sponsored by Foodie and Mode. All opinions are mine. And in my opinion, I want to systematically eat each and every one of these ice cream treats.

Check out Ice Cream Treats we all Scream For!

by Sharon Garofalow (Cupcakes and Cutlery) at Foodie.com

Ah summer.  That time of year when eating ice cream every day seems not so gluttonous.  I LOVE ice cream but thanks to bikinis, I try not to eat it very often.  Compiling this list of delicious dessert ideas with ice cream gave me a total sugar rush.  Not only do these dessert ideas look gorgeous, they sound amazing too!  It is these kinds of amazing treats that I would totally consume my daily total allowance of calories for.  Are you adventurous with your ice cream flavors?  I am dying to try out some of these unique flavor combos this summer.  How great does the Plum and Earl Grey Ice Cream sound?!  And how fun are these Mini Ice Cream Pops?!  These are perfect for entertaining with kids!  It would also be a great way to put a limit on how much ice cream I’m ingesting as my fave way to eat ice cream is by the container…Holy calories!  I’m desperate for someone to make this Sweet Corn Ice Cream dessert for me as it appears to require too many steps for me to tackle.  Same with this Ice Cream Cake.  I mean it looks awesome but I may only try to make this myself if I am trying to impress someone we are having over for dinner.  But since I am trying to keep my muffin top at bay, I’ll probably start off with this Clean Eating Coconut Banana Ice Cream.  Hmmmm, maybe I should come up with a breakfast ice cream…then I’d have all day to work it off.  Are you an ice cream person?  What is your go-to dessert with ice cream?

Easy Gift Giving with Store Bought Treats

*This post is sponsored by Rich’s Products as part of the Bakery Because “Give the gift of deliciousness” campaign.
Easy gift giving with store bought treatsIf you know me well, you know that I over think everything.  Often, I get an idea and it spirals out of control until it is so big, and such a production that I don’t have the energy to do it anymore.  But if I can get out of my own head, I can simplify things and not lose the intention behind it.  Take for instance, sweet treats.  I love sugar.  And most other people do too.  But I don’t need to spend days baking special treats to show someone my appreciation or love.  Store bought treats are there for me, ready to use.  While they might be a little plain for my liking, all it takes is a moment to jazz them up and put a little “me” in it.

cinnamon-rolls-and-sugar-cookiesYour local grocery store’s bakery section is an untapped resource.  For real.  Mine has a crazy amount of baked goods, decorated cakes, cookies, and even accessories (the coolest candles and sprinkles!)  So why not embrace it and take some of the stress off of yourself.  And guess what else?  These things taste amazing!

use duct tape and cardstock to create cookie pouchesI decided to pick up some goodies and give them a little repacking makeover.  All I needed was some cardstock and Duck tape to get me started.  Super easy.

store bought cookies are perfect for gifting to othersThese little cookie pouches were really quick to make and I LOVE how they look!  Who wouldn’t want to get a bright pink cookie package?

Repackage store bought treats to share the love easilyI used plain cookies and then picked up other supplies at the store to create individual cookie decorating gifts.  For no other reason than to make someone’s day.  But of course these would work as Valentine’s too.  But guess what?  The store also has frosted cookies!  Instead of these kits, you could just pop the pre-decorated cookies in clear cello bags – letting their cuteness show through.  Even easier.

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Best Caramel Corn Recipe Ever

Best Caramel Corn EverYOU GUYS!  This is the BEST CARAMEL CORN RECIPE EVER!  I don’t mean to yell.  I just want to be clear.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had this caramel corn.  It is simple to make and is a show stopper.  I have given this as teacher’s gifts, eaten it in place of birthday cake and have been accused of hoarding it for myself.  If that is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

this recipe is the easiest and best caramel corn ever.The ingredients are pretty standard.  And I know there is a lot of negativity surrounding corn syrup and the like.  If there is one place in the world they should be, it is dessert.  Embrace it people!  Then eat some carrots to balance it out.

add brown sugar and butter to a sauce pan for easy caramelThe only thing hard about this recipe is remembering to watch the caramel so it doesn’t burn.  I often try to do something else at the same time thinking I can multi-task.  And sometimes I can.  But it never works out when I am making caramel.  I’m fine with burnt toast.  I’m okay with burnt pizza.  But there is no place in this world for burnt caramel.  Super grody.

Add corn syrup to brown sugar and butterThe corn syrup helps to make a nice candy coating on the outside of the popcorn.  And a candy coating is never bad.

Adding baking soda makes the caramel foam up. If your kids are old enough to be around hot molten caramel, have them help you with this.  There is a fun chemical reaction when you add the baking soda to the caramel.  It foams up and grows. So cool.  I have no idea what the purpose really is but if it helps it come out yummy, I’m all for it.

mix the caramel with the popcornYou can use a roasting pan but I find it is easier to use a large disposable pan.  The key to this caramel corn is the baking.  It helps coat all of the popcorn and keeps the popcorn from becoming soggy.  This is not a sticky caramel corn.  It is crisp and buttery and perfect.  I like using a larger pan to make sure that I don’t lose half of the batch in to the fiery depths of the oven when I stir it every 15 minutes. FYI, burnt caramel smells almost as bad as it tastes.  And then clean up is a breeze because you don’t have to try to get hardened caramel off the pan.

I don't mess around about caramel corn.  This is the best ever. There you have it. Best Caramel Corn Ever.  SO easy.  I know that some of you may have your own caramel corn recipe that you swear by.  But yours is wrong.  Mine is better.  Sometimes I sprinkle a little Maldon Sea Salt on top as it is cooling down from its last spin in the oven.  Oh yeah.

Best Caramel Corn Recipe Ever

Ingredients

  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup butter (I've used both salted and unsalted - I don't taste a huge difference)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 quarts popped popcorn (I use an air popper, but you can use plain microwave popcorn also)

Instructions

  1. Pop all your popcorn (6 quarts) and place in disposable baking pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  3. To a saucepan, add the brown sugar, butter, salt and corn syrup.
  4. Melt together over medium heat, stirring almost constantly to keep it from burning.
  5. Heat to boiling and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
  6. Remove from heat and add baking soda.
  7. Stir well.
  8. Pour over popped popcorn and stir well, taking care not to break the popcorn.
  9. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  10. Stir the caramel corn as it cools to prevent it from sticking together in big clumps.
  11. Store in an air tight container.
http://www.cupcakesandcutlery.com/best-caramel-corn-recipe-ever/

Beer Chocolate and Chile Ice Cream

beer chocolate chile ice creamYup, I made beer ice cream.  Well, it totally had chocolate and chile in it too.  And it was good.  And it is another great recipe for game day.  People seem to get excited about game day.  But I get excited about ice cream.

Beer Chocolate and Chile Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 large pasilla negro chile, stemmed, seeded, deveined (I found this is the International Foods Aisle at my grocery store. It was not called exactly as it is written above, but look for key words…)
  • 1 1/3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped in to small pieces (I could not find Mexican chocolate so instead I used a bittersweet chocolate and added a touch of cinnamon to the recipe)
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla, preferably Mexican
  • 1/4 cup Bohemia beer

Instructions

  1. In a small skillet heated over medium, toast the chile, pressing it flat against the skillet with a metal spatula until it is very aromatic—about 10 seconds per side. Place in a small saucepan and add the half-and-half, Mexican chocolate and the semi-sweet chocolate; heat over medium until steaming (but not boiling). Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes, then pour into a blender jar and process until the chile is completely pureed.
  2. Set up a 4-quart saucepan, filled halfway with water, into which you can nestle a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Bring the pot of water to a boil over high heat while you’re preparing the custard base. Reduce the temperature under the pot of boiling water to maintain a gentle simmer.
  3. In the 3-quart stainless steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined, then whisk in the chile-infused chocolate mixture. Set the bowl of custard base over the simmering water and whisk frequently, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens noticeably, about 5 minutes. The custard is sufficiently cooked when it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (You can also test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the custard, then running your finger through the custard: if the line holds clearly, the custard has thickened sufficiently.) For the finest texture, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean bowl.
  4. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Nestle the bowl of strained custard in the ice bath. Whisk the mixture until it is completely cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
  5. Stir the heavy cream, vanilla and Bohemia into the base. Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scrape into a freezer container and freeze for several hours to firm.
  6. Recipe courtesy of Bohemia Beer
http://www.cupcakesandcutlery.com/beer-chocolate-and-chile-ice-cream/