Chocolate Nerd Biscotti

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For those of you with kids, I am sure you are wondering what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy…unless you are one of those parents who let them eat as much as they want knowing it will only make them  sick. It’s not a bad plan and I’m not judging! Ultimately you are hoping that it will teach them a lesson. Yet, I’ve seen the “eat as much as you want” plan backfire on more than one parent. However, I’ve discovered as a parent, you are either a “rationer”, who saves the candies for school lunches, road trips, or even party favors, doling out only a little at time, or you are a “hands-off and all in” parent, who lets them go at it.

Put simply, we are the rationers. In our house we currently have enough candy to put a 700 pound man into a coma. In fact, I once had a friend, who was benignly looking for a glass in our kitchen when he come across our stash and described it as the “Willy Wonka cupboard.” In fact I think there is still candy in there from last Halloween. We’ve got to clean it out. So I started thinking about what to do with all the candy we are storing in the cupboard like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter.

We do have a tradition on Thanksgiving morning in our house. We watch the Macy’s Day Parade and in an attempt to give the kids the full experience, we hand them paper bags with their names on them and occasionally throw candy to them on the living room floor. They love it. But this year was the first year our daughter asked, “Where are you getting all this candy?” We are going to have to give that some careful thought for next year.

You can use extra Halloween candy to decorate gingerbread houses, make edible necklaces, stuff stockings, or even…you knew it was coming…bake in biscotti!

So this year, as every year, our kids discover a new candy around Halloween. This year our daughter fell in love with Nerds. You remember those little hard candies that resemble pebbles and come in a variety of colors and flavors. So when I asked if she would like to experiment and make biscotti with some of her Halloween candy, Nerds was her pick.

As we were almost ready to make the logs, she threw me a curve ball. In addition to the Nerds she insisted on melted chocolate, which is something we have topped biscotti with, but never put into the batter. We found a full-size Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar in our s’more stash and melted it down. As we kneaded it into the dough, it left a marbled effect that was wonderful and delicious.

Chocolate Nerd Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup Nerds candy (any flavor or mix them all together)

1 full-size Dark Chocolate Hershey bar, melted

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the Nerds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Add the melted chocolate. Knead until the dough has a marbled effect, about 5 – 10 times.

7.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #88: Use the ends to create a long curvy parallel pathway on a table top. Then grab two straws and some Nerds and see who can get their Nerd to the finish line first by blowing them down the pathway with the straw. The winner gets to eat both Nerds.

 

Pumpkin Spiced Almond Biscotti with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

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It’s that time of year when we spend plenty of time outdoors, jumping in leaves, carving pumpkins, and enjoying the outdoors. But it is also getting darker earlier, which forces us inside long before we’ve had a chance to channel all our energy. So, we’ve been doing some woodsy craft projects in the house as well.

We made a few stuffies.

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We constructed a tree house. It was inspired by the Tree Fort Kit at Magic Cabin. But truth be told it looks NOTHING like it. While we can boast a bucket elevator and a few swings, we could certainly use some help. I’ve seen other people on-line who have knocked it out of the park when it comes to replicating it. Our resident carpenter needs to step it up!

treehouse

We also carved pumpkins. While I am huge fan of using the drill to simply create random holes all over the pumpkin, which looks amazing when all lit up, the kids prefer the traditional “spooky” faces. This year my husband thought the kids were old enough to carve their own pumpkins and handed them the knife. After I mentioned that our daughter was about to slice her hand, I had to leave. He obviously forgot the most important Big Biscotti Bake rule…we don’t let children play with knives.  Yet, under his watchful eye (at least I am hoping he watched them since I wasn’t there to see what was going on) they created two jack-o-lanterns that looked fabulous against the dark night.

Zola pumpkin Rocco's pumpkin

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! We are huge fans of pumpkin rolls, pumpkin and chocolate chip muffins, and pumpkin pecan dump cake. So of course you knew we couldn’t go on without mentioning pumpkin flavored biscotti! This year I stumbled upon some Planters Pumpkin Spiced Almonds, which you must try. (Have I mentioned we also love almonds!) So combining all things pumpkin with some almonds and chocolate seemed like a sure bet.

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Pumpkin Spiced Almond Biscotti with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole Planters Pumpkin Spiced Almonds

1 cup chopped dark chocolate

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the nuts and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. Put chocolate in microwave safe bowl and melt for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate and continue melting for an additional 30 seconds until the chocolate easily spoonable. Drizzle over completely cooled biscotti. Put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to set.

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What to do with the ends #87: Use the ends to decorate your next jack-o-lantern. They make excellent eyebrows!

 

Cherry Chocolate Biscotti

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We don’t know if it is a personal problem or not. We’ve talked to other parents who expressed a similar sentiment when we asked, so we don’t feel like the exception. Yet, we find ourselves repeating the same phrase over and over again everyday. “Please stop yelling.” Actually, most of the time the “please” is missing from that sentence. Our son has no “inside voice.”

We’ve read that kids equate loudness with getting heard and apparently you can “give your kid an inside voice” by speaking “calmly, quietly, with a soft demeanor.” What? Had we known that, we would have gifted him one a long time ago. And if we spoke calmly and quietly, I am quite sure he would never hear us!

Most everything that comes out of his mouth is decibels higher than it needs to be. While a whisper comes in at 15 decibels and a normal conversation occurs at 60 decibels, we are quite sure if we could measure his voice it would be well above that…almost anytime. At dinner, with the four of us sitting no more than an arm lengths away, I am quite sure he would come in around 110 decibels, or the equivalent of a car horn.

We’ve just decided he’s passionate or easily excitable, which describes many Italians and is not necessarily a bad thing.

His heart is just as big as his voice. If we give him crayons, scissors, or some chalk, he turns contemplative, creating a masterpiece he is sure to give to one of us to treasure.

So when I mentioned needing some help with the photographs for the blog, and that it involved chalk, both the kids were happy to oblige. After we finished, they created some wonderful chalk art…on themselves and the chalkboards.

A friend requested these Cherry Chocolate Biscotti and we are glad she did. Cherries and chocolate are a classic combination.

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Cherry Chocolate Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the topping

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 teaspoon black cherry flavored oil, plus ½ teaspoon for the topping (We used LorAnn Oils Brand.)

¾ cup dried bing cherries

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and black cherry oil.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the cherries. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon black cherry flavored oil with a fork in a small bowl. Press mixture firmly on top of each log.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #59: Crumble the ends on your lawn Christmas Eve for the reindeer to eat.

Chili Spiced Mango Biscotti with Chili Flavored Dark Chocolate and Homemade Chipotle Almonds

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Since the weather is getting colder, I suggested making some chili for dinner. My husband winced, looked at me with a fake smile, and took a deep breath before he blurted out, “I don’t really like your chili.” Then he stopped breathing, waiting for what was coming next. He knows I am passionate about food. However, little did he know that chili doesn’t fall into that category. I took no offense and wondered instead why he had been silent for so long. Who eats something they don’t enjoy for 17 years without saying anything?

If I wanted to learn how to make a perfectly hearty bowl of chili, I certainly could have looked into that over the years. Yet, to me chili was always one of those dishes where we used up whatever onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. we had on hand, a last-minute meal thrown together in the winter in order to avoid a trip to the grocery store. I never really gave it any thought. I browned some ground beef, threw in a packet of McCormick Chili Mix, and called it a day.

Over the years my husband brought home recipes for chili that his coworkers brought to their “pig-ins.” They incorporated venison, bison, or some other ingredient that required a scavenger hunt of local grocery stores or butchers.

So with the new-found realization that my chili lacked luster I sent out an S.O.S., asking family and friends for any chili recipes worth sharing. My cry was answered by a high school friend who read me his infamous chili recipe in a hushed voice over the phone. While I had hoped to share it with you here, I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Yet I can tell you it calls for over 25 ingredients and most certainly requires a trip to the grocery store. But, it is definitely worth it.

The best part is that after browning the meat, only two kinds and neither are bison or venison, you put it in the crock-pot until you are ready to eat. There are very few things that I make successfully in a crock-pot, but this was a winner. Everyone loved it and we’ve added it to our rotation of comfort foods to keep us warm in the winter months. I’d say we have a new family favorite.

Since we conquered chili, we thought we should move onto other chili inspired creations. These Chili Spiced Mango Biscotti with Chili Flavored Dark Chocolate and Homemade Chipotle Flavored Almonds are a perfect dessert to share after finishing your next steamy bowl of chili. They are a wonderful balance of sweet, smokey, and salty. We found the Chili Spiced Mangoes at Trader Joe’s and used a recipe from Party Nuts! to make the almonds. There are plenty of almonds left for snacking too. We placed the chili flavored dark chocolate in a plastic bag and handed our son a meat tenderizer to crush the chocolate and release his aggression.

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Chili Spiced Mango Biscotti with Chili Flavored Dark Chocolate and Homemade Chipotle Almonds 

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

½ teaspoon mango flavored oil

½ heaping cup diced chili spiced mango

¼ cup crushed chili flavored dark chocolate

½ cup salt and chipotle flavored almonds

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and mango flavored oil.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the mangoes, dark chocolate, and almonds and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #41: Crumble the ends in your next bowl of chili instead of saltines or oyster crackers.

Vanilla Bean Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate

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What was your first job? Maybe the question brings to mind images of whiny kids you endured while baby sitting or impatient customers as you waited tables. Maybe your first job was making or delivering pizzas, watering plants at the nursery, or even running the cash register at a local store. While I’ve done all of the above, and enjoyed some more than others, my first job was a Sunday morning paper route I shared with my younger brother. It was my parent’s idea and their attempt at teaching us “financial responsibility.” Although, now I am certain they were breaking some major child labor laws.

When we started our Sunday morning paper route I was 12 and my brother was 11. The bundles of papers were flung out of a white van onto the curb long before the sun came up. We lugged the bundles onto the front porch around 4:45 because before we could deliver them we had to stuff each and every paper with the comics and sale inserts. On some days this alone could take an hour. Our hands were always completely covered in black newspaper ink, which we would often forget about and wipe on our faces leaving bruise-like marks. I am really surprised no one ever called child protective services.

We delivered several hundred papers in the rain, sun, and snow. On the brutally cold days, my dad took pity on us and would drive us around our route with the trunk of the car open. We had to run to keep up with him of course and he loved to play what we called the “catch-me-if-you-can” game,  when we thought we were just close enough he’d hit the gas, lurching the car forward and just out of reach. All the while he sat in the heated car drinking his coffee and laughing at us. But he would always stop halfway through the route at a local convenience store where we’d warm up and get a breakfast snack.

I always picked out a box of stale vanilla cake donuts completely covered in a waxy milk chocolate coating and a container of chocolate milk to wash them down, otherwise they’d get stuck in my throat. When I asked my brother, he couldn’t remember what he used eat, but he let me know how freakishly funny it was that I did.

When we make these very simple vanilla biscotti we leave just a tip of the biscotti plain, without chocolate, so that we have something to hold onto. Ideally, we thought leaving a bit of the biscotti peeking through would mean that less chocolate would find its way onto our clothes, the furniture, or the floor, but I’m not sure it actually works.

Vanilla Bean Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise into two halves with a sharp knife. With the backside of the knife scrape out the seeds of each half of the vanilla bean.

4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds.

5.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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Dipping Chocolate

1.  Put ¾ cup of semisweet chocolate morsels to a microwave safe bowl and microwave on a medium setting for 30 seconds.

2. Stir the chocolate and microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Repeat until the chocolate is completely melted.

3. Add the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate and stir  until melted.

4. With a rubber spatula, pour the chocolate over each biscotti, covering all four sides of the biscotti.

5. Place the chocolate covered biscotti onto a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set.

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What to do with the ends #5: Build an obstacle course for remote control cars.