Double Chocolate and Espresso Cookies

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You know something’s a success when people ask for the recipe after eating it.

I was a little doubtful while scooping these cookies out onto the baking sheet. The batter didn’t look like any cookie dough I had ever seen because it was pretty loose and some even lost their shape when they hit the pan.

I was still worried after they were done baking and I chomped on one while still warm from the oven. It just tasted o~kay.

But, I let them sit overnight and by the next day they had somehow changed. The flavors had mingled together and become stronger. The texture on the outside had become crunchier and the inside more fudgy, like a brownie. In fact, these taste like a delicious brownie-cookie hybrid, and they even double as a caffeine pick-me-up because of the chocolate covered espresso beans.

Everyone that tried these cookies became an immediate convert, even those that don’t like coffee (read: my mom).

Even though a little more work goes into these to melt the chocolate, there are only 2 tablespoons of butter in the entire recipe. Can you believe it? I think I’m going to try coating these with sugar next and see if they can replace my traditional Milk Chocolate Espresso Cookies at Christmas time. If you’re one of those that doesn’t like crunchy things like nuts or candy in your cookies (like my fiance), then you can replace the chocolate covered espresso beans with a strong espresso powder.

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PYO at Hartland Orchards: Blueberry Coffee Cake

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In 2011 we tried our hand at a “pick your own” orchard. This was not our first time–we had picked apples at an orchard before, but this time we went in the summer to get some peaches and blueberries. Something about picking your own fruit makes it taste so much better.

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Each time we make the decision to head out west to the part of Virginia where these farms are, we try to pick a different one. I want to be able to compare the different orchards and offerings to decide which one I like best, so that I can spread the love when find “our” place.

We’re still on the search for a perfect place. Last year we went to a place that had blackberries, peppers, and squash, but we got a flat tire on the way back, so that soured it a bit for us.

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We also picked a peck of peaches (say that 10 times fast!). Most of the peaches were eaten as-is and I gifted some to my mom since it’s her favorite fruit. I also made a horrendous peach “cobbler” with some of the peaches. I’ll spare you that anecdote.

But, these blueberries. These blueberries were small, firm, tart, and after a quick wash, they didn’t need any more adornment or modification. But they were screaming to be made into what could be called our household’s favorite treat: Blueberry Coffee Cake.

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This cake is soft and moist and just the right balance of tart and sweet. The crunchy, sugar-y topping is what makes it perfect though. I snagged a copy of this recipe from my mother-in-law and taped it into our recipe book. It’s been time-tested and proclaimed “excellent!” time and time again. This sure is a delicious way to get your daily dose of fruits.

We usually make this for Dan’s birthday since he doesn’t like traditional cakes. But, to be honest, we make this any chance we get! It goes well in the morning with a cuppa tea or coffee, but also holds it own with ice cream or whipped cream for a light yet satisfying dessert.

You can add some red berries and really make this a red-white-and blue affair to celebrate the 4th of July! I’ve made this same recipe and subbed the blueberries with blackberries, peaches, rhubarb, or even frozen mixed berries; they are all delicious renditions.

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Homemade Ume Shu (Plum Liqueur)

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Sorry for the long lapse in posts, things have been crazy here recently! Not only did a take a long (and well deserved) vacation to Montréal (more  on that later), but I recently got engaged! If you care to see all of my wedding-related inspiration, you can hop on over to my “Wedding Ponderings” board on Pinterest.

The perfect drink for a celebration, and for the summer is ume shu (梅酒). Translated as plum wine or plum liqueur, this drink can be served on its own as a cordial, on the rocks, or used more like a syrup and mixed with soda water. Ume shu is one of my favorite drinks because it reminds me of my time spent in Japan as a student, and later a teacher. It was the prefect drink to cool off with during the hot, muggy summers at the end of a long day. Even the cheap ume shu in Japan seemed to taste better than whatever I could find here, so I would always stock up when I was there. Now that I know I can make my own for less than the baggage overage-fees, I’ll be on the lookout for ume in the store constantly.

7898_10100987043368986_2069828772_n If you can find ume (green plums) in your local supermarket, it’s not that hard to make your own ume shu–all you need is soju/shochu, rock sugar, and ume plums. The hardest thing is waiting 3 months for your concoction to be ready!

If you want to buy plum wine, it’s pretty affordable and readily available in stores. My favorite is Hakutsuru, but a good backup is Takara or Kinsen. Those are both a bit hard to find, but I know Choya and even Gekkeikan are available at wine shops, Cost Plus World Market, and Asian groceries.

The recipe I used is from Kitchn, but other bloggers such as Miss Mochi have their own tutorials as well. I had already made my ume shu by the time I saw this video, but it’s also a great way to learn too.

Mini Blueberry Cheesecakes with Trefoils™ Cookie Crust

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The baking with Girl Scout Cookies® saga continues! Trefoils™ are sometimes seen as the plain, boring cookies that you always have extra boxes of after a booth sale. My sister had an extra box of Trefoils™ from last year and gave them to me on the condition that I bake something with them. Also, did you know that February 8th is National Girl Scout Cookie Day?

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I was a little burned out on chocolate, as crazy as that may sound, so I wanted to make something for my office for Valentine’s Day that was decadent, but lighter. I made my Mini Blackberry Cheesecakes recipe and replaced the blackberries with blueberries. I also replaced the vanilla wafer cookies with the buttery, fragrant Trefoils™ and added some almonds in too (omitting the almond extract in the original).

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It was easy to convince my office-mates to try these treats. The fruit on top makes it “healthy”; they’re bite-sized; they have Girl Scout Cookies® in them, which makes them “limited edition”. The crust on these are delicious and it goes well with the tanginess of the cheesecake and the tart berries.

Feel free to sub your favorite fruit on top or replace the cookies with what you have on hand. I had some extra filling and crust and swirled in some chocolate chips and crunchy cookie butter for a rich Valentine’s treat.

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Homemade Truffles

truffles_featureMy best friend Stephanie moved to Pittsburgh a few years ago. Even though I don’t see her as often as I used to, we make it a tradition to get together and make truffles every year (See: 2010, 2011). This was our third year, and we spent the weeks before deciding on flavors, shopping, and picking up packaging materials.

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No matter how much you plan in advance though, there are always some snags. We had a few last minute shopping trips, a recipe mis-calculation, and a slight shortage of boxes, but everything turned out great. I chose to make a Dark Chocolate Crunchy Biscoff truffle and Stephanie chose a Deep Milk Chocolate Earl Grey and Lavender truffle. Both were delicious (I’m not biased at all).

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This year we even remembered to print off some labels to put on the inside of the boxes so that recipients would know what they were eating. Extra truffles that didn’t fit in boxes were placed in bags. We also made just enough peppermint bark – some made in a cute rilakkuma chocolate mold, and some made in a brownie bite pan.

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The base recipe for these truffles are from a truffle making class that Stephanie and I attended at ACKC in Washington, DC on 5/25/10. These truffle recipes have served us well for the past three years, and we’ll continue to use them in the future.

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