Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Loaf

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There’s an amazing Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Loaf at Starbuck’s. It’s the perfect blend of rich chocolate and cinnamon with a crunch sugary topping. It’s just shy of amazing.

Of course I went home and immediately tried to find a way I could recreate my new favorite sweet. Thanks to the speed and accuracy of the internet search, I was able to locate a similar recipe within mere seconds over at the Taste and Tell blog. And, lucky for me, I had all the ingredients on hand— except for buttermilk (which can easily be found at any local market).

This recipe became my Sunday afternoon baking project with the kids. It was a rainy, cold day so the idea of baking something that would fill our apartment with the sweet and comforting aromas of chocolate and cinnamon seemed ideal.

As always, we had a blast using the electric mixer.  The kids split turns conquering parts of the recipes— my son made the topping, my daughter worked the mixer– and we all liked the spoons and bowl afterwards.

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All went smoothly and we felt very accomplished loading up the oven with our loaf pans.

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Ten minutes into baking, I realized I committed a faux pas—I didn’t pay much attention to the bottom of the recipe were the author recommends using Dutch processed cocoa in lieu of regular cocoa to help avoid cake sinkage in its center.

Of course I used the cocoa we had on hand and we witnessed a total disaster when the bread was baking. Not only did the cake sink, it bubbled over the side of the pan beforehand, making a complete science experiment out of the oven. While we were definitely bummed that our finished product wasn’t the perfectly-baked Chocolate Cinnamon Loaf we had all imagined, it was still amazing to eat— especially with the crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.

Lesson learned—don’t forget to read a recipe from beginning to end understanding all the steps involved.

Regardless of how it looked, it tasted divine.

Hope you enjoy as much as we did…

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

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I just participated in the 4th Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

It’s an exciting program, hosted by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen, that brings together food bloggers from around the world “in celebration of all things scrumptious”.

The premise of the program is quite simple: I baked delicious home made cookies and sent a dozen of each to three other assigned food bloggers.  In return, I received three dozen cookies from three separate food bloggers.

The best part about this program is its partnership with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. By participating in this cookie swap I not only contributed to the food blogger community, but also supported yet another great cause.

Through participation fees, extra donations, and contributions from the generous brand partners who matched our donations, dollar for dollar: OXO, Dixie Crystals, California Olive Brand and Sheila Q’s Brownie Brittle, this campaign is poised to raise well over $14,000 again!

For my contribution, I decided to recreate a sweet and savory cookie: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon.

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Yes, you heard it correctly, BACON. I’ve recently jumped on the BACON CRAZE too. There are BACON specialty stores popping up here in NYC, in addition to an all-bacon restaurant called Barbacon where you can enjoy everything from Bacon Caesar Salad to your very own “bacon tasting flight” accompanied with craft beers and bourbons, as well as beer pairings. And, don’t forget the tasty Maple/Bacon cookies!

So, why not create a cookie combing two ingredients I adore: bacon and chocolate? In fact, double the chocolate. I made sure to use real full fat bacon for the recipe- thick center-cut bacon. Admittedly, during a regular non-indulgent week, my family enjoys the Applegate Farm Turkey Bacon or Sunday bacon variety.

But, for this, you’ll need the thicker, meatier bacon. If you can find maple-cured bacon, it’s much more robust in flavor.

This recipe is super easy to make. In fact it only takes a few minutes of prep and approximately 10-12 minutes for baking. You should have all of the ingredients in your stocked fridge ad pantry, except for maybe the bacon. Next time around I would actually use a food processor to crush the bacon into bits. I simply chopped the bacon with a knife for my first batches and my kids (the ultimate taste testers) didn’t like the lack of consistency with the size of bacon chunks (some cookies had randomly-sized chunks and some didn’t have chunks at all).

Hope you enjoy and, don’t be scared off by the bacon.  It adds another flavor dimension to the traditional chocolate chocolate chip cookie.

Hope you love.

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    Sweet and Salty Popcorn Bark

    Popcornbark

    There’s a “no-gift” policy at my kids’ school. That means, no “official” gifting to the teachers. However, many parents find creative ways to work around that mandate. We’ve always baked some treats (that is apparently school-approved).

    I like choosing something to bake that’s easy for the kids to equally if not totally participate. Their teachers have the difficult task of teaching so my kids should at least be able to take the lead in our treat making.

    The past few years we’ve been mastering awesome Peppermint Bark. It’s so simple to make yet, it tastes so decadent. It’s quite festive with traditional holiday colors- red, black and white and we’ve even gotten really creative and started using white chocolate as well as dark chocolate.   This year, we (I) decided to take a little spin on our holiday fave and create Sweet and Salty Popcorn Bark.

    The premise of the bark is still the same: melted chocolate as the base but this time around, we used popcorn and dried cherries. So, we’re still keeping the same holiday colors but, changing the ingredients a bit.

    The Sweet and Salty Popcorn bark is a confluence of a salty crunch from the popcorn, sweet and tartness from the cherries, plus bitterness from the chocolate. It’s nothing short of wonderful. Each bite lends itself to a new surprise—it could be cherry and chocolate, popcorn and chocolate, or the flavor jackpot: chocolate, cherry and popcorn.

    We made a few batches and sampled with different types of chocolate- milk chocolate, semi-sweet and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate yielded our bests results (70% dark chocolate) as the milk chocolate rendered the treat a bit too rich to eat more the one piece.

    If you don’t have any dried cherries, feel free to use dried cranberries or even some apricots as your sweet and tangy element. Just remember, your bark can become a compost bark….start experimenting with whatever salty and sweet ingredients you have on hand. Pretzels could be tasty too (a nice crunch with salt).

     

     popcornbarkpackagedfinal gift – bark packaged in a glass jar

    Holiday Mantras

    holiday fitness

    With the holidays upon us, I thought I’d share a little hit list* I usually reference to help me keep myself on track, so that I don’t feel like I should resign myself to loose-fitting sweat pants to welcome in the New Year and beyond.

    Everything in moderation is my year-round mantra but, I love addressing these too:

    SHAKE MORE THAN YOUR SALT!   Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, good cholesterol and blood pressure. “The Surgeon General recommends moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week,” says Caroline Klinge. Luckily, some of that exercise can be part of daily activities. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, walk, rake leaves, do housework and take 10 minutes to dance as if no one is watching. Exercise is more fun with friends and family members, so hit the gym or the trails in a group. And remember that people who spend most of the day sitting, are 54 percent more likely to develop heart disease.  Stand up, stretch or take a brisk walk.

    SLEEP ON IT.  Sleep is good for the heart. According to The National Sleep Foundation, the rule of thumb for adults 18 years and older is seven to nine hours every night.

    TRY SOMETHING FISHY.  Fish that is high in Omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, herring and tuna are essential to a heart healthy diet. Fish oil supplements, especially those containing krill oil, have been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

    LOL!  Laughter really is the best medicine. According to research from the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughing relieves stress that damages the endothelium, the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels and promotes blood flow and healthy blood vessels. Watch a lighthearted movie or sitcom, read a funny book or take in a show at a comedy club.

    PASS ON THE SALT. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, cutting back on salt intake would make the number of coronary heart disease cases significantly decrease.  “To help reduce intake, try LoSalt as it has 66 percent less sodium than regular table, sea and rock salts but tastes just like regular salt,” recommends Klinge.

    SAY OMMM!  Yoga/Pilates not only provides exercise that gets heart rates pumping, but the meditative aspects of yoga help reduce stress and build body awareness.

    MAKE HEART HEALTH A FAMILY AFFAIR. Good heart health begins at home. With childhood obesity a growing concern in America, parents must help kids develop healthy eating and exercise habits.

    THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT. Several smartphone providers offer free or very inexpensive apps to keep track of heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and exercise progress. Several apps offer information on heart health, music, and links to social media sites.

    And finally, these mantras should be used to help you stay healthy throughout the year, not just during the holidays!  Good luck.

     

    What do you do to keep yourself balanced during the crazy holiday season?

     

     

     

     

    *some of the wording for the mantras provided by LoSalt- UK’s leading low-sodium alternative!

     

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