Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Around Town: Wild Blue Frozen Yogurt

Last week I was spoiled with frozen yogurt not once, but twice! After talking about going for “FroYo” with a few of my friends for months, we finally made it to Wild Blue Frozen Yogurt in Grand Haven, MI.

IMG_20140518_135304_706This was my first experience in years with frozen yogurt, and I was really excited to sample some of the fun flavors that ranged from cheesecake, to salted caramel, to standards like vanilla and chocolate. As my sister-in-law explained, once you’ve sampled a few, you’re free to mix any favors you like before adding additional toppings, and then you pay for your treat based on the total weight.

IMG_20140518_135313_595Above you can see Chad, my sister-in-law, and my brother in line paying for their delightful cups of frozen yogurt, as well as a view of the 70 plus toppings offered to add to your yogurt.

IMG_20140518_135324_727I chose the White Chocolate Macadamia-flavored frozen yogurt, and I topped it with raspberries, Ghirardelli chocolate pieces, cookie dough chunks, a cherry, and waffle cone pieces. A couple days later when I came back after hiking with my friend Alex, I tried the same flavor, but perfected my toppings, choosing Heath bar pieces, a light sprinkling of the Ghirardelli chocolate pieces, and a cherry. *sighs happily*

IMG_20140518_135342_785Chad’s cup and my cup on the scale being weighed.

IMG_20140518_135433_928So many pretty colors amongst our four cups!

IMG_20140518_135453_453I really enjoyed my experiences at Wild Blue last week. The location is easy to get to, the shop itself is very open, clean and friendly, and the atmosphere felt very relaxed. I’ve heard that other Frozen Yogurt places tend to have more flavor choices, but that they also tend to be much busier and less inviting. I felt like Wild Blue offered a perfect set of choices: I wasn’t overwhelmed, yet I still had lots of fun choosing different flavors and toppings!

What is your favorite Frozen Yogurt place? And what flavors do you like the most?

xx

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Chocolate Temptations

And now the finale to all the fun I’ve had with Uncommon Grounds: An adventure involving coffee and chocolate, which are two of my favorite things on the planet. I found a recipe in 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World for Chocolate Temptation cookies, and decided to give the recipe a try. They. were. GLORIOUS.

IMG_20140516_073130_495To start the recipe, you preheat your oven, grease a cookie sheet or parchment paper, and melt some chocolate, coffee and butter into a heat-proof bowl until the chocolate is almost melted.

IMG_20140516_073400_808 IMG_20140516_073751_979 Then, in a separate bowl, you beat some eggs until they’re fluffy before adding some sugar.

IMG_20140516_074136_356 IMG_20140516_074348_783From that point, you add in the chocolate, butter and coffee mixture, stirring until smooth.  IMG_20140516_075104_172Next up you sift a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt into the mix, along with chocolate pieces and almond extract.

IMG_20140516_075714_138

IMG_20140516_080252_163 IMG_20140516_080259_199

Next, put tablespoonfuls of dough onto a greased baking sheet or greased parchment paper and stick them in the oven to bake!

IMG_20140516_084325_162 IMG_20140516_084604_421

Once they’ve cooled, it’s time to pipe melted chocolate onto them (I used a ziplock bag!).

IMG_20140516_085146_999

I did the white chocolate first…

IMG_20140516_101156_972

…and then I did the milk chocolate!

The cookies turned out fantastic, though the coffee flavor was quite subtle. As you can see in the first picture above, I used Starbucks Breakfast Blend for my cookies, but that was just because that was what I had on hand. When I brought the cookies to work, we decided to do a tasting with a French press of Espresso roast, which goes well with nutty, chocolatey flavors. The pairing was FABULOUS, so I’m thinking that perhaps next time I make these cookies I’ll use a darker roast coffee brewed more strongly instead of the Breakfast Blend. Do you have a favorite recipe that incorporates coffee?

Chocolate Temptations (adapted from 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World)

Ingredients

3 1/4 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

12 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate

1 tsp strong coffee

2 eggs

scant 3/4 cup brown sugar

generous 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp almond extract

scant 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

scant 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 1/2 oz. white chocolate

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet or parchment paper. Put 8 oz of the semisweet chocolate with the butter and coffee into a heatproof bowl and heat in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between each burst until chocolate is almost melted.

2. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a bowl until fluffy. Whisk in the sugar gradually until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir into the chocolate mixture. Chop 3 oz of semisweet chocolate into pieces and stir into the dough (or use semisweet chocolate chips to make things go even faster!). Stir in the almond extract and nuts.

4. Put tablespoonfuls of the dough onto a cookie sheet, transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for 16 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, or if using parchment paper, pull paper off cookie sheet and set aside to cool. To decorate, melt the remaining chocolate and spoon into pastry bags or ziplock bags with the ends cut off, then pipe lines onto the cookies.

Enjoy!
xx

Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Around Town: Hodgepodge Bakehouse

A couple weeks ago my mom and I decided to try a new-to-us bakery in Muskegon called Hodgepodge Bakehouse!

IMG_20140429_124311_386

When we first walked inside, we were greeted with a case of enticing baked goods.

IMG_20140429_124253_198It’s difficult to choose, believe me. My mom and I decided to go with Apple Fritters. Since each one was about the size of my face, I double-checked with my mom: “Do you want a whole one, or to split one?” She replied in a very matter-of-fact way that she wanted a whole one and I was like, “Yeah. Of course. Go big or go home. Totally makes sense.” On the inside I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to finish this!”

IMG_20140429_115645_277

I soon found out that you can do anything you put your mind to, however. I got about halfway through the fritter and felt super full, but it was just. so. good. All will power was lost. As if the fritter itself wasn’t enough, having delicious Ferris coffee to pair it with did nothing for my lack of inhibition.

IMG_20140429_115728_620

Glazed on the outside with a fluffy, light inside, the apple fritters had a perfect balance of sweetness. The apple filling was spread throughout the filling like a delicate, almost creamy surprise, occasionally delighting you with a tiny apple wedge. In one word: fabulous.

IMG_20140429_115600_809

My mom and I enjoyed our Hodgepodge experience amidst fun signs like “Donut Worry, Be Happy” (which could be my motto), and “A good baker will rise to the occasion… It’s the yeast he can do.”

IMG_20140429_115621_696

Since going with my mom, I’ve already been back to Hodgepodge Bakehouse again with a friend (last time I indulged in a more reasonably sized donut with a cookie crumble topping). Hodgepodge Bakehouse also serves pizzas, soups, sandwiches and salads, all of which look really yummy from across the coffee and sweet-filled tray that tends to grace my table when I go. I’m so glad I got to try someplace new, and would recommend giving Hodgepodge Bakehouse a try if you’re in the area!

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Uncommon Grounds

I’ve finally finished the behemoth book Uncommon Grounds, and am happy to say that I learned a lot. It’s quite possible my coworkers don’t feel the same joy I do, since upon starting the book I’ve been spouting out all kinds of random facts to them.  In my defense, we are in the coffee business, so telling them interesting things I learned should be perfectly acceptable. I also should get an award for finishing the giant coffee history book, but perhaps that’s just my opinion.

Anyway, in honor of Uncommon Grounds I wanted to do a coffee tasting (I may or may not do coffee tastings all the time, but that’s beside the point 😉 ). I chose to give the medium roast coffee, Guatamala Antigua, a try. I tried this Starbucks coffee in a French press when I first started working as a barista, and after it was mentioned briefly in Uncommon Grounds, I thought I should give it another go. My palette for coffee tasting has improved a bit, so I was hoping to be able to recognize the notes of cocoa and soft spice this time around. Because the Guatamala Antigua pairs well with caramel, I decided to try it with one of my favorite treats: Stroopwafles!

20140428-190055.jpgI found some stroopwafles at my local grocery store, and though they weren’t the brand I normally get, I purchased them. The last time I went to the fabulous DeBoer Bakery in Holland, MI, a cashier recommended putting a stroopwafle on top of a cup of coffee or tea so that the caramel in the center would warm up, so that was a must for this tasting.

20140428-190107.jpgAfter waiting for the press to finish, it was finally time to try my pairing. I poured some coffee into my cup and set a stroopwafle on top. In that moment, it was like dreams were coming true. *sighs happily* I smelled the coffee and slurped it, noticing the medium body and acidity of the roast. Then, I tried a bite of my stroopwafle and…MY DREAMS WERE DASHED! The stroopwafle tasted quite stale, and it paled in comparison to stroopwafles of my past. (Chad and I were fortunate enough to try stroopwafles in Amsterdam a couple years ago, and since then the best brand I’ve tried is Daelmans. I’ve decided to make amends for the serious sadness of this tasting by getting proper stroopwafles and trying them with another press of the Guatamala!)

Despite the heart-breaking taste of the stroopwafles, the Guatamala Antigua paired so well with caramel that it actually improved the flavor of the stroopwafle. Good coffee and food pairings are supposed to compliment each other that way: the food should bring out the best of the coffee, and the coffee should bring out the best of the food, so that you’re sitting there wanting to take bite after sip after bite after sip.

20140428-190116.jpgI didn’t finish my stroopwafle, but I finished the delicious Guatamala. I’ll keep you posted on how the next tasting goes, and I’ll share some of my favorite facts from Uncommon Grounds, too! What’s your favorite coffee pairing?

xx

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

This weekend was full of Easter treats! I made some super easy, dangerously yummy Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Easter Eggs, some pretty pastel-colored deviled eggs, and a lovely lemon tart.

IMG_0480

Pretty Deviled Eggs ❤

IMG_0481

Sweet treats: top left and right: Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (made for work, but definitely sampled at home!), bottom left: my mom’s amazing carrot cake, and bottom right: too many desserts! Carrot Cake, Lemon Tart & Cheesecake.

I decided to make the lemon tart in honor of Dame Eyola from The Neverending Story. The recipe is sort of a glorified lemon bar recipe, but I figured Dame Eyola grew fabulous fruit, so why not glamor up a lemon bar recipe with her in mind?

IMG_0478

Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

Ingredients

1 1/4 c. chilled butter                                     2 c. sugar

2 c. all-purpose flour                                     1/4 c. lemon juice

1 c. powdered sugar (plus a little extra for dusting)

4 eggs                                                                candied lemon zest

                                                                          blueberries (for garnish)

IMG_04311. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Then cut butter into flour and powdered sugar until crumbly; press into an ungreased tart pan. Make sure you spread the crust high enough over the edges that you’ll have a high “wall” for holding in the lemon filling later. Bake for 30 minutes.

IMG_04352. Meanwhile, you can make your candied lemon zest. I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but it’s super easy and wonderful directions and pictures can be found by clicking here. Basically, you zest a lemon (the directions say to peel and slice the zest, but I just used my zester), boil the zest in a sugar-water simple syrup, drain it, dry it, and coat in more sugar. Can’t go wrong! Set your zest aside and make your filling. Squeeze out the lemon juice from your zested lemon (it should equal about a 1/4 cup, at least), or use lemon juice from a jar. Then blend eggs, sugar and lemon juice together.

IMG_0441

Here is my crust after pulling it out of the oven.

IMG_0443

3. Slowly pour lemon mixture over crust. (Be careful!–I got a little over excited and some of my filling spilled over the sides of my crust, leaking through the bottom of my tart pan and onto the counter! *cries*) Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes; cool.

IMG_0445

Here is the tart after cooling.

IMG_0447

4. Once the tart has cooled, sift some powdered sugar on top for decoration.

IMG_0449

5. Next, add your pretty candied lemon zest.

IMG_0453

6. Lastly, add some blueberries for a nice, colorful contrast. The tart will taste best chilled, so I recommend keeping it refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

IMG_0455

Oo la la!

IMG_0475

Enjoy!

I had a lot of fun making and eating Easter delights over the weekend, and was happy to make Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart: a spring treat that was book-inspired! Did you enjoy any special treats over the weekend?

Food & Cooking · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Chuao Honeycomb Dark Chocolate

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about chocolate, but believe me: it hasn’t left my heart. It’s just that I haven’t had many opportunities to indulge in specialty chocolates lately. Fortunately, yesterday I went to World Market and came across Chuao chocolate bars. I saw a Honeycomb flavor and knew I had to try it!

20140416-195420.jpgOn the package, there is a description of the “experience” of eating this chocolate bar: “Crunchy bits of golden, caramelized honey mingle with deep dark chocolate, like secret lovers meeting on a warm summer night. Sweet and decadent, the Honeycomb bar will charm you, one nibble at a time.” Phew! Is it getting hot all of the sudden? I’m surprised a chocolate bar that sexy doesn’t melt just from the description! 😉

20140416-195428.jpgBefore trying the bar, I knew that I liked a couple of things about it: Firstly, Chuao ethically sources its cocoa. Secondly, Chuao chocolates are 100% natural, without hydrogenated fats, artificial preservatives, artificial colors and flavors or artificial sweeteners.

20140416-195435.jpgI broke off a hunk to split with Chad, and observed the little crispy bits of honey visible. I had sort of hoped there was going to be actual honeycomb covered in the dark chocolate, but upon reading more carefully I realized there were only caramelized pieces of honey. (Out of curiosity, I looked up how much honeycomb costs, and it can range from around $11 to $30 and up for just 8 ounces!)

Any tiny bit of disappointment at feeling misled by the picture was replaced with pleasure as I took my first bite. The dark chocolate was rich and lovely, and the bits of honey lightened the overall feel of the chocolate in my mouth. The texture actually reminded me a lot of sea foam chocolate, which of course got me looking up recipes for sea foam, which led me to finding this nice video with an easy recipe for honeycomb sea foam:

Overall, I enjoyed the Chuao chocolate. I’d be interested in trying their Pretzel Toffee Twirl Bar or their Whisky Pairing bonbons. Which would you like to try?

Food & Cooking · Seen

I Spy…

Spring!

It may still be cold, but I’ve been finding bits of springtime (or creating bits of it!) all around me 🙂 Firstly, I’ve been spying it outdoors…

20140408-191246.jpg

Is that water? Oh my gosh, that’s water! THE ICE IS MELTING in Grand Haven! HURRAH!

20140408-191218.jpg

This ice was melting from the inside out, creating a little cave!

20140408-191233.jpgBright skies = happy days

Secondly, I’ve been creating a springtime atmosphere to “spy” indoors…!

20140408-191325.jpgNothing like whipping up some Lemon Poppy Seed Scones for a nice spring day. I made my first-ever batch with a nice (cute!) mug of coffee nearby.

20140408-191333.jpg

The recipe said to cut the scones into twelve triangles, but I chose to cut the twelve in half again because they were so big. The scones were fantastic!

20140408-191341.jpgI may not be able to start a garden just yet, but I was able to make a cute radish needle felting craft with one of my Whimsey Box kits. I had never heard of needle felting before, but now I’m in love with it. I can’t wait to show you a tutorial featuring the other needle felt cutie I made!

20140408-191348.jpgThere was invigorating spring lemon scent in another of my Whimsey Box kits: homemade lotion and hand scrub.

20140408-191356.jpgI also decided to make some Vanilla Pistachio Cream Puffs because I thought the bright, pastel green color created a nice, light spring feel.

20140408-191403.jpgThe cream puffs were yummy, too, so I decided it would be best to get them out of the house and bring them to work 🙂

Where have you spied spring?