Thursday, February 18, 2016

Happy National Chocolate Mint Day!


What? You don’t know the date of National Chocolate Mint Day? Honestly, neither did I. Until a bottle of Brancamenta, a minty-fresh herbal liquor appeared in my mailbox. Accompanying the bottle was a note asking me to try it, and if I liked it as much as they thought I might, to develop a drink recipe using chocolate and the minty goodness.

I have strong opinions on chocolate and mint. I never liked the ubiquitous slices of “grasshopper pie” that appeared as dessert at the Ole Miss sorority house. I’m not a fan of chocolate mint ice cream, and the venerable creamy grasshopper drink doesn’t entice me at all. 

So, what to do? I turned to my true chocolate-mint love - deep dark almost bitter chocolate with the fresh taste of mint. Adding the herbal kick of Bracamenta just makes it better. Less sweet, richer, more interesting, more grown-up and less ice cream cone sweet.

I went to the kitchen to discover the best, most interesting combo of flavors. My eureka moment was when I mixed up a batch of milkshakes. An Adult Chocolate Mint Milkshake was born. It’s not hard to finish an easy, delicious, not too sweet and full of flavor creation from the blender. After my taste taster gave his verdict, (as a chef its wonderful to be married), I packed it up last week and carried it everywhere!

On Monday, I was a guest on Atlanta & Company. Of course we had to end our Valentine’s Day segment with a Chocolate Mint Milkshake.

On Wednesday, I served it up to a “Girls Night In” class at the Thomas F Chapman Family Cancer Wellness Center at Piedmont Atlanta.

On Friday, my friend and fab food photographer Chloe Clark took glamour shots, right before I served it up to a group of friends.

Creamy without the cream, only 5 ingredients, full of big chocolate mint taste, here’s the recipe for you to enjoy!

“Adult” Chocolate Mint Milkshakes

3 Cups Ice
1 Cup Almond Cashew Milk, (unsweetened)
¼ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa
2 TB Powdered Sugar
Dash Vanilla
2 TB Bracamenta (Italian Mint Liqueur)

Add the ice and remaining ingredients to a high-speed blender. (Use the smoothie feature on your blender to make a drink the consistency of a milkshake.)

And just because I love that bitter-chocolate-mint taste, I couldn’t resist coming up with another recipe. This one is not a drink, but a luscious dessert, one that my classes have been unable-to-resist. Its fudgy, a little better for you, and easy to make. If you’re into eating gluten free this cake fits right into your lifestyle.

Chocolate Mint Quinoa Cake

2 Cups Cooked Quinoa (3/4 Cup Dry Quinoa, cooked and cooled)
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 Large Eggs AND 4 Egg Whites
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Grapeseed Oil
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
1 Cup Fine Raw Sugar
1 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Tsp Baking Soda
1 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt
*Chocolate Mint Frosting*

Step One Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9x13” pan with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray. * Place the can of Coconut Milk in the freezer.

Step Two In a blender, combine the eggs, almond milk and vanilla and blend to combine. Add the quinoa, oil and butter then blend until smooth.

Step Three Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients in the blender to the bowl and whisk together until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely.

*Chocolate Mint Frosting
1 (13.5 ounce) Can Coconut milk, taken from the freezer
10 Oz Dark Chocolate Chopped

1 – 2 TB Bracamenta

Melt the chocolate in a sauce pan over low-medium heat. Remove the coconut milk from the freezer but don’t shake the can or turn it upside down before opening. Scoop out the solid part and put it into the pan with the chocolate. Melt the coconut and chocolate together, remove from the heat and add the Bracamenta. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl that you can whip it in later. Allow to cool in the fridge for several hours, until thickened. Once it has thickened, remove from the refrigerator and beat on high for about a minute, or until fluffy. Frost the cooled cake and return it to the fridge until serving. 

What happened after the right shot:)
By the way, the date of International Chocolate Mint Day is February 19th. I was sent the bottle of Bracamenta to review – but would never do so if I didn’t like it. I think you will too!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate! Eating and Cooking

Shrimp and Chocolate? Yes - if its unsweetened chocolate combined with the luscious flavors of Mexico. Here's an easy and luscious salad that is a perfect entree to share for your Valentine celebration - even if its just for you! 

Spicy Cocoa Shrimp Salad – Cilantro

1 TB Hot Sauce
1/2 Tsp Ancho Chili Powder
½ Tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Tsp Turmeric
1/2 Tsp Cumin
2 TB Lime Juice
1 TB Lime Zest
½ Tsp Sea Salt
1 LB Large (10 – 16) Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Cups Shredded Napa Cabbage
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
1 Cup Shredded Red Cabbage
1 Cup Prepared Tomatillo Salsa (I like Frontera)
1 Avocado in Slices
1 Red Pepper, Cut in Strips
1 Jalapeno, cut in thin rings (if desired)
2 Chopped Green Onions
½ Cup Chopped Cilantro

Step One
Whisk the hot sauce, chili powder, cocoa, turmeric, cumin, lime juice, evoo and sea salt together. Place the shrimp in a plastic bag and then drizzle the mixture on the shrimp. Massage the bag so the shrimp is all coated and then set aside for 30 minutes.

Step Two

Remove the shrimp from the bag and discard any remaining marinade. Grill the shrimp, (on a grill pan or cast iron skillet) until cooked through – about 2 minutes. Toss the napa, carrots and red cabbage together and place on a platter. Top with the shrimp and slices of avocado, peppers and onions. Drizzle with the salsa and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

TWO important things to keep in mind when cooking with chocolate in savory recipes:

Less is more! Just a teaspoon can add the deep rich flavor of unsweetened chocolate. And remember - its only unsweetened chocolate, (sometimes called cocoa powder), that we use in savory dishes. Always start experimenting with a small amount - like a half teaspoon before adding more.

Think of the other ingredients - if you are channeling the flavors of Mexico, as I am here, Mole comes to mind. Sauce-y chicken and turkey dishes are perfect with the addition of unsweetened cocoa powder. Also, try chiles and hearty stews that are made with beans and rice. They can always use the fruity-bitter taste of unsweetened chocolate!