Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chocolate Treats!

I love the combination of Chocolate and Coffee and I found it in a new cookie recipe from RecipeZaar. I'm not usually excited about making cookies because they take more time than baking brownies or other bars (and my time is precious, people!), but these little gems gave me a new-found love for baking cookies!



3 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, chopped
2 cups Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
3 large Eggs
1 cup Sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground Dark Roast Coffee Beans
3/4 cup Flour
1/3 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Salt


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

In a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set in a sauce pan of simmering water, melt Unsweetened Chocolate, 1 cup of Chocolate Chips and Butter; stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat Eggs, Sugar and Coffee on high speed until thick and pale and ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes.

Beat in Chocolate mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together Flour, Baking Powder and Salt. Blend in halves into batter, then stir in remaining Chocolate Chips.

Drop batter onto baking sheet by heaping teaspoonfuls, placing them about one and a half inches apart. Bake 8-9 minutes or until puffed and cracked on top.

Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen.


Next time, I'm going to leave out the extra cup of chocolate chips added into the batter.

Also, I will add another teaspoon of ground coffee for a richer java flava!

The cookies received rave reviews from Ron and our friends Bob and Justin, who all had difficulty saying "no" to another cookie, and another, and.... 

True, these precious treats are addictive!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wine Tasting with Nina

One of my favorite things about living in San Luis Obispo county is the wineries! It seems a few new wondrous tasting rooms pop up every month.

Ron and I have been talking for months with our friend and fellow cuisiniere, Nina, about bringing her to some of our fave vineyards that she hadn't experienced, and the day finally came! We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to Paso Robles.

First stop, Di Raimondo's Cheese Shop on 13th Street. 

Cheese is a wine-tasting necessity, and Di Raimondo's is the premiere place in all of north county.

Jeannie and John were both in the shop that day, slicing samples for the customers. We tried 4 varieties from around the globe, and selected the Pilota, a mild, creamy, semi-soft goat's milk and cow's milk cheese, and an aged Gouda (one of my faves).

We picked out a few ounces of Olives Provencal to help round out our picnic lunch. It was time to begin the wine journey.

We started with fresh palettes at Maloy O'Neill.

People find it hard to believe when we tell them that EVERY WINE at this treasure chest is a gold doubloon! 

Even their Chardonnay is lovely! Really.

Plus, the tasting room at Maloy O'Neill is like a charming little Italian villa, with pretty gifts.

And if you happen to visit when winemaker Shannon and his wife Maureen are there, you will have an exceptional wine tasting experience! Ask about Tootsie, their uncommon Irish Wolf Hound!

Next, we headed over to the 46 West and went to Lone Madrone. This is a newer winery that took over Sycamore Farms and what used to be Bonny Doon. 

The tasting room is beautiful and filled with lots of great wine-related gifts, bottled herbs, lavender products from local growers, unique furniture and decorative outdoor items.

The tasting room pourers are well-versed in the world of wine!

We had our picnic lunch near the herb gardens.

Nina made Arugula-Prosciutto Rolls, very delicious. I made a Curry Chicken Salad with golden raisins. We had our cheeses, olives, a loaf of French bread, and a dry Salami. A perfect little feast!

With most of our afternoon gone, we decided to visit Denner, a winery that none of us had been to but the place was recommended by friends who are wine lovers.

Our final stop was Four Vines. I wanted Nina to go home with some special bottles of wine that she and her husband didn't have in their collection.

The Petite Syrah (called "The Heretic") is a fave, and their "Loco," is excellent Tempranillo blend. Not to be overlooked is "Anarchy," a fab blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Mourvedre.

We all did, indeed, go home with several deep, dark and delicious red wines from Maloy O'Neill, Lone Madrone and Four Vines.

Nina also got some very special gifts for her husband's upcoming birthday, which she purchased at Lone Madrone.

Then I went home and took a little nap!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

We had a birthday party for Tara that got planned the night before. Fortunately, I had already made a Chocolate Zucchini Cake! The cake was big, and I wasn't sure how Ron and I were going to consume it unless we shared it with several friends, so the last-minute birthday dinner was a perfect reason to slice up half of it and make a special dessert to share with Tara and Kahle:

Grand Petit Fours!

I made a Chocolate Buttercream Frosting for a filling, and drizzled each big little cake with a Chocolate Glaze.


Oh, and I can't forget the Mocha Whipped Cream to top it all off!

A triple-chocolatey delight!

Here's the cake recipe:



2 1/2 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
7 tablespoons Dutch Process Cocoa
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup melted Butter, cooled
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 3/4 cups White Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 cups finely grated Zucchini


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt and Cocoa.

In a large bowl, mix together Eggs, Canola Oil, melted cooled Butter, Sour Cream, White Sugar, and Vanilla. Fold in Zucchini.

Slowly fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool completely before doing anything crazy like making Grand Petit Fours!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pompagne (Sparkling Pomegranate Martinis)

The "surprise" party for Kahle backfired when her flight to California was cancelled! The airlines inflicted a cruel twist of fate on those of us planning the Saturday Soiree.

But, sad that our Guestess of Honor would not attend her own party, we raged on! (Don't worry, Kahle, another party shall ensue).

Here's a photo of the guests who stayed until we shut down the kitchen and the bar!

The event started slowly, but that gave me plenty of time to keep working and shouting out orders to Tara, my temporary aide-de-cuisine.

Okay, I didn't yell at her!

She and Ron and I completed all of our main tasks just as the first guests were arriving.

First order up: POMPAGNE!

What is Pompagne, you ask? I found this recipe in my Cooking Pleasures magazine. It's like a sparkling Pomegranate Martini! Here's how to make one:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Add 2 oz. Pomegranate Juice, 3/4 oz. Vodka (we used Stoli), and 1/2 oz. Orange-flavored liqueur (we used Cointreau).
  3. Shake for ten seconds. Strain into a Martini glass.
  4. Top with 1 oz. Champagne or Sparkling Wine.
  5. Drink responsibly, 'cause these babies go down eeeeeeasy!