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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13 and S’mores Ice Cream

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Must be summertime if the word “s’mores” comes up in the conversation.

Actually, we’re still a few days short of the summer solstice (though you wouldn’t know that from the many areas in the Northern Hemisphere already experiencing extreme heat). But most schools are out, vacations have started, pools are open and beaches filling up. Even if it’s not summer on the calendar, it’s summer in our activities and in our hearts.

And also here at Reading and Recipes! This week we’re kicking off the season with a recipe that has a double-shot of summer–S’mores Ice Cream!

This combination of the signature flavor of summer (remember those marshmallows burnt over the campfire then pushed off the stick onto a milk chocolate square and sandwiched between two graham crackers? those were the days!) and the signature dessert of summer (what’s summer without ice cream?) is easy to prepare and doesn’t require a churn (that signature pain of summer).  Just mix together, freeze, then enjoy–at the beach, at the pool, on the deck, or around the kitchen table.

Wherever and whenever you eat this S’mores Ice Cream, it will be summertime.

Speaking of summertime vacations, Reading and Recipes will be taking a summertime vacation of its own. Over the next several weeks, we will not be making additional posts. But be sure to check back later in the summer for new posts; or, better yet, use the “follow” button to sign up to get alerts of future posts.

In the meantime, feel free to browse through our 168 recipes (all yummy, we promise) and our numerous serialized stories and novels, using the index links at the top of the page.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer. See you again soon!!!!

smores no churn ice cream

S’mores Ice Cream

2 cups whipped cream or whipped topping*

7-ounces (1/2 of a can) sweetened condensed milk**

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

7-ounce jar marshmallow fluff

8 honey graham cracker sheets, finely chopped***

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream, condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat ingredients until well combined. Fold the marshmallow fluff into the mixture, until thoroughly mixed throughout the ice cream. Fold in the graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container with a lid. Freeze the mixture for 4-6 hours, stirring every couple of hours, or until the ice cream reaches the consistency of frozen yogurt. Note: this ice cream will never fully freeze. Store leftovers in freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 8 half-cup servings.

*If you prefer to use freshly whipped cream, you will need to beat 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. If you are using whipped topping, make sure the whipped topping is softened and has come to room temperature.

**You can use the other half of the sweetened condensed milk to make caramel sauce or peanut butter ice cream.

***This is equal to 16 graham cracker squares, or 32 small graham cracker rectangles. You can also use 1 1/2 cups of Honey Teddy Grahams, finely chopped.

smores ice cream

{Adapted from My Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8 and Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

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Life is best found in simplicity, or at least it should be.

Sometimes that’s a hard truth to remember as we run around doing twenty different things at once and not able to keep track of all we’ve got going on let alone appreciate and absorb some of the simple pleasures associated with those tasks.

So, in pursuit of, or with a nod towards, such simple pleasures, this week’s Homemade Chocolate Strawberries couldn’t be much simpler: fresh strawberries, melting chocolate, done.

And the pleasure gained from this dessert is not merely in its simplicity. There are few things better suited to being coated in chocolate than a ripe strawberry. And there are few combinations of flavors more satisfying and elemental than that of a sweet and juicy strawberry mixed with the earthy richness of chocolate.

So dial your life back a few notches, and partake of this simple two-ingredient dessert. And then look around and be grateful for all your blessings.

in memory of Cathy

chocolate covered starwberries

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

4-6 strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried 

3 ounces chocolate melting wafers*

sprinkles, optional

Melt the chocolate according to package directions. Hold one strawberry by its stem over the melted chocolate. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over top of the strawberry until the fruit is completely covered. Place the strawberry on a plate lined with wax paper. Add sprinkles, if desired. Once all of the strawberries are coated, place them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until hardened. Store strawberries in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 4 chocolate strawberries.

*For best results, please use chocolate specifically designed for making candy. Brands such as Candiquik and Ghirardelli Melting Chocolate should be readily available at your local grocery store or Target. I would not suggest using regular baking chocolate, chocolate chips, or any other form of chocolate.

choc covered strawberry

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5 and Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

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What’s to say about this week’s Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie? Seems like it’s all in the title–they’ve got chocolate and peanut butter and their soft, which is good if you don’t want crumbs all over your desk or your couch. And they’re rich and yummy, but that pretty much goes without saying at R&R. Yup, this week’s intro is all in the title–of the recipe, that is.

But what’s to say about Before the Mellowing Year? Quite a lot, really. The title comes from the first stanza of John Milton’s great pastoral elegy, “Lycidas,” and refers, ironically, to the author pushing his literary talents beyond his current ability in the quest to eulogize a college friend’s untimely death by drowning, summoning rhymes and allusions and metaphors ahead of their due season–“before the mellowing year.”

This phrase in turn refers to the novel’s main characters, Zach Sandstrom and Allison Mayes Sandstrom, endeavoring to lead adult lives and make adult choices and commitments while still adolescents (Allison is eighteen and Zach twenty). As a result, they get caught up in the riptides of emotional development and life’s challenges and changes. And the novel follows them through these struggles.

In last week’s serial, the two managed to find the common ground of affection in a stark and beautiful wilderness setting. This week’s serial describes how that setting, and their individual and communal outlook, can reverse in little more than an instant.

Check it out and see what you think, while eating your Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie.

pb choc chip cookies

Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

heaping 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

To a large mixing bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat the ingredients with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and beat into creamed butter. Mix in the peanut butter until well incorporated. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and ensure all ingredients are well mixed. Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined, careful not to over mix the cookie dough. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the cookie dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cookie dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Place each ball of dough onto prepared cookie sheet. You should get 12 cookies.

Bake the cookies in your preheated oven for 11-13 minutes, or until just set and the edges just begin to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 cookies.

peanut butter choc cookies

{Adapted from Averie Cooks}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4 and Creamy Chocolate Pudding

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So now that we’ve reached the ripe old age of three, it seems like a good time to get back to basics.

And one of the most basic dessert skills is making home-made pudding. We’re not talking about the powder in a box/slosh in some milk pudding mix. We’re talking about eggs and corn starch and tempering and raise the heat slowly so as not to scorch it pudding.

I bet there are a lot of people out there who have never made pudding from scratch, either because they are intimidated by the idea or because they think using a pudding mix is a whole lot easier. But home-made pudding is not that difficult, and the results are worth the effort.

And for this back-to-basics exercise, we’re going to sweeten the pot (so to speak) by giving you a recipe for Creamy Chocolate Pudding. This pudding is so rich it is delicious by itself, or it can be used in a pie or a parfait or mini-pastries. See, that’s the thing–once you’ve made home-made pudding, you’ll be looking for excuses to use it in all sorts of recipes.

Or just make a batch and eat it all right out of the pot. That’s O.K. too.

creamy chocolate pudding

Creamy Chocolate Pudding

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups whole milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream to garnish

Add the egg yolks and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together, then stir in the cornstarch. The mixture will be pretty thick. Set aside.

Add the whole milk, semisweet chips, and salt to a pot and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the chocolate melts. Temper the eggs by scooping 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture and whisk into the egg yolk batter. Once this is well incorporated, whisk in another 1/4 cup. Once the egg yolk batter is warmed, pour it back into the melted chocolate and whisk all ingredients together. Continue to whisk this mixture constantly, over medium heat until mixture is thickened, or about 5 minutes. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir constantly for 1 more minute. Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Divide this mixture between 4 cups. Place plastic wrap directly on pudding (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve pudding chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 4 1-cup servings.

homemade chocolate pudding

{Adapted from Recipe Girl}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2 and Mini French Silk Pies

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Sometimes pampering is called for. And if you have a dessert with the words “French” and “silk” in the name, it probably falls in the category of pampering–as in rich and smooth and decadent.

But this week at Reading and Recipes we’re going to go you one better in the pampering department with your own personal dessert in these Mini French Silk Pies.

Now a slice of pie is great. Pie anytime, any way works for me. But there’s a problem with a slice of pie–the other guy or gal’s slice always looks bigger! So here you are with this yummy dessert in front of you, a rare and special treat; and all you can think of is that the person across the table got more than you. Kind of takes the fun out of eating that special treat.

But with these mini pies, you don’t have to worry about someone else getting more because you’ve got the whole pie! Now that’s what I call a special treat!

And that’s real pampering, R&R style!

mini french silk pies

Mini French Silk Pies

6 pre-made mini graham cracker crusts

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 pasteurized eggs, room temperature*

whipped cream for garnish

Unwrap the mini pie crusts and place on a cookie sheet. Set aside for now.

To make the filling, place the unsweetened chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, until the chocolate is melted. Allow the chocolate to cool.

Meanwhile, add the butter to a mixing bowl and beat on high for 2-3 minutes, or until really fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla and cooled chocolate. Beat mixture another minute or two until ingredients are well incorporated and mixture is light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat on high for 2 minutes. Add the second egg and beat on high another two minutes. This is a lot of whipping and beating the ingredients, but it is the only way to get a fluffy filling! Scrape the sides of the bowl one last time and make sure all of the ingredients are well mixed. You know your filling is done when it is a very pale brown and not at all granular.

Divide the mixture between all 6 mini pie crusts and spread evenly. Refrigerate the pies for an hour. Serve chilled with a dollop of whipped cream or chocolate shavings. Cover and store leftover pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 mini pies.

*I recommend using pasteurized eggs since the eggs will not be cooked. Using pasteurized eggs reduces the risk of food-borne illness.

french silk pie

{Adapted from Pillsbury}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #52 and Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding

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O. K. So maybe some of you have jumped the gun and are already in spring mode–T-shirts and shorts and flip-flops and suntan lotion. And maybe your weather (at the moment) is encouraging this anticipation.

But I’ve got a little warning for all you early birds–it ain’t spring yet. The vernal equinox is still more than a week away; and even once it occurs, there’s likely to be some cold and blustery weather ahead.

So with that distinct possibility in mind, we’re posting our last wintertime, warm you to the bones and the tips of your toes recipe: Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding. As the name suggests, this recipe combines the warmth and sweetness of hot chocolate with the comfort-food richness of bread pudding. There may be no better afternoon warm-up or late-night around-the-fire indulgence than this dessert in a mug as you sit cozy and warm with the cold north wind howling outside and snowflakes dancing beyond the windows.

So, sure–pull out the picnic blanket and the beachwear for a trial run. It’s fun to look ahead and dream. But bookmark this recipe and keep the ingredients handy. Winter has a growl or two left in store.

hot chocolate bread pudding

Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 packet hot chocolate mix

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 egg

2 1/2 cups cubed stale bread

2-3 Tablespoons chocolate chips

1/3 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large (12-ounce capacity) oven proof mugs, and set aside.*

In a large bowl, whisk together the hot chocolate mix, milk, vanilla, salt, and egg. Make sure ingredients are blended. Add stale bread cubes and chocolate chips to the mixture, making sure to coat all of the bread. Allow this mixture to sit for 15 minutes.

Divide the bread pudding between the two prepared mugs. Place mugs on a cookie sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bread pudding is set. Remove the bread pudding from the oven. Divide the mini marshmallows and place on top of the bread pudding. Return bread pudding to oven and turn oven to broil just until marshmallows turn a golden brown. Be careful not to burn the marshmallows!

Remove the bread pudding from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Cover and store leftovers in refrigerator.

*If you do not have mugs of this size, bake bread pudding in a greased 5×7 inch pan. Increase cooking time to 35-40 minutes, or until the bread pudding is just set.

hot chocolate mug bread pudding

{Adapted from The Cookie Rookie}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #52, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #52, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51 and Chocolate Turtle Cookies

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I’ve always loved turtles–that is, the four-legged kind with the built-in shelter like a mobile home. I especially like the small turtles you occasionally see in your backyard or garden, the painted and box turtles that once were so common but less so now, the ones that would hide in their shells till the dog stopped barking and moved on to something more interesting (and mobile), freeing the turtle to quietly (and slowly) plod off into the weeds.

Where have those turtles gone?

Well, in honor of those garden turtles and in recognition of (and hope for) the approach of warm spring days and the accompanying greenery of grass and leaves, we’ve named this week’s recipe Chocolate Turtle Cookies. They look like little dark-shelled turtles with their legs and head withdrawn into the shell. But don’t worry. There’s no turtle inside, just peanut butter and a vanilla wafer: good stuff.

These cookies actually mimic a certain type of popular girl-scout cookie with a trademarked name we won’t use here. But I think Chocolate Turtle Cookie is a better name than that other anyway. You see, I always liked turtles and miss seeing them in my yard. This recipe is for them, and in hopes of their return–this spring and all springs.

copy cat tagalongs

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

9 vanilla wafers

3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

4 ounces milk chocolate chips*

1-2 Tablespoons milk

Lay vanilla wafers on a plate lined with parchment paper. Top each with a teaspoon of peanut butter. Place the cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Put the chocolate and 1 tablespoon of milk in a small sauce pan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly. If the melted chocolate seems too thick, add 1 more tablespoon of milk. Once the chocolate is completely melted, turn the heat off. Place one cookie on top of a fork. Spoon melted chocolate on top to completely cover the peanut butter and cookie. Gently shake excess chocolate off. Place chocolate covered wafer back on a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining vanilla wafers.

Place cookies back in the freezer. Allow the chocolate to set on all of the cookies. Place hardened cookies in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 9 cookies.

*If you can find milk chocolate candy coating, that will result in a shinier, harder outer coating. My local store did not have this product, so I used milk chocolate chips, as indicated in the recipe. If you can find candy coating, use 4 ounces and follow instructions on package for melting and dipping.

homemade tagalongs

{Adapted from Back For Seconds}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51, text © Jeffrey Anderson