Monday, April 30, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Ice Box Cake

Vintage Ice Box Cake Pan
Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and I have a Mexican Chocolate Ice Box Cake to add to my growing list of Mexican chocolate recipes. This recipe, originally from the 60s, was 'found' by the Baltimore Sun for a reader.  I've changed a few things, and you might want to, too. I used Taza Mexican Chocolate. I cut down a bit on the sugar, too, but maybe not enough for your palette. If you use unsweetened chocolate, you can add more sugar. I'm pretty sure this icebox cake recipe is a variation on a Bon Appetit Recipe (without Kahlua). You can always cut off the tops of the lady fingers, but I like the way they look the way they are. Love this no bake cake. No eggs, so no worries, either.

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cake

60 ladyfingers (Trader Joe's .. but there are other brands)
2-3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
4 ounces Taza Mexican chocolate/but feel free to use any very dark chocolate.
1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar, (plus 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup sweet butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ounce semisweet chocolate (grated)
1/4 cup or more Kahlua

Brush ladyfingers with Kahlua. Line bottom of 9-inch diameter springform pan with ladyfingers. Line sides of pan with ladyfingers, standing ladyfingers side by side with the rounded side facing out.
Stir 3/4 cup whipping cream, chocolate and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove saucepan from heat and cool to room temperature.
Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla in large bowl until blended. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture.
Combine remaining 2 cups cream, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and cinnamon in another large bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat until firm peaks form. Fold half of whipped cream mixture into chocolate mixture.
Spread half chocolate filling into ladyfinger-lined pan. Top with layer of ladyfingers, then remaining chocolate filling.
Pipe or spread whipped cream mixture over filling. Sprinkle with grated semisweet chocolate.
Refrigerate until firm, at least three hours. Can be made one day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Remove pan sides from cake and serve.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cocoa Spiced Salmon

I'm at the Coast this weekend, and I was trying to come up with a recipe for fish using chocolate. With Cinco de Mayo coming up, I have mole on the brain, but I was really hoping to do something else--although mole goes well with firm fish. Then I remembered a recipe I made last summer. I found it on Yummly (Every recipe in the world). If you haven't been there, be sure and check it out. You can find just about anything there. The recipe below is from Dave Reifsnyder and appeared originally, I think, on I changed it just a tad by adding more cocoa and a very spicy chile powder. 

Salmon Season starts Monday in Northern California, so this recipe is pretty timely. What I like about this recipe is that the inside of the salmon remains very moist. This rub, and that's what it really is since it's dry, is also good with any firm white fish--halibut, swordfish, opa, and other fish. You can also use this cocoa spiced rub with barbecued salmon.

Cocoa Spiced Salmon

1 lb salmon fillet
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
dash cinnamon
1 tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup dark ancho chile powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsps ground pepper (fresh)
1-1/2 tbsp kosher or sea salt

Rub salmon fillet with olive oil and press flesh side firmly into spice mix.
Place skin side down on broiling pan and broil for 10 minutes.
Move broiling pan into 425 degree oven and bake for additional 10 minutes or until center of filet is opaque.

Do you have a chocolate fish recipe you'd care to share?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dutch Process Cocoa Brownies

Today is Queen’s Day, sponsored by the Dutch Community. It is being celebrated at the Windmill in the Queen Wilhelmina Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 11am-5pm.

So planning for the celebration today, I realized I have never mentioned anything about Dutch Cocoa here on How often have you seen a recipe that called for Dutch cocoa and wondered exactly what that means.

Actually, there's nothing very Dutch about Dutch Processed Cocoa. It's called a Dutching process because the person who invented it, Coenraad J. van Houten, was a 19th century Dutchman who pioneered the use of the hydraulic press to defat chocolate liquor. Van Houten's solution lay in simple chemistry. Cocoa in its natural state is slightly acidic, as indicated by its pH value of around 5.4. By soaking the cocoa nibs in a basic (or alkaline) solution, he found he could raise the pH to 7 (neutral) or even higher. The higher the pH, the darker the color. And, the acids present in natural cocoa were neutralized, reducing its harshness.

These developments greatly expanded the use of chocolate, which had been mostly used as a beverage in Europe up until that point. Because Dutch process cocoa has a neutral pH, and is not acidic like regular cocoa, it cannot be used in recipes that use baking soda as the leavening agent and that rely solely on the acidity of the cocoa to activate it; it can instead be used in recipes that use baking powder for leavening.

To learn more about the differences between Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa, read this article in Cook's Illustrated.

Planning to bake with cocoa? Here's advice from David Lebowitz.

Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.

Many classic American recipes, like Devil’s Food Cake, use natural cocoa powder. There is also a reaction between natural cocoa powder and baking soda that occurs in recipes, which creates a reddish crumb, like Devil’s Food Cake.

There are exceptions to each, of course. And according to Fine Cooking magazine, “You can substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch-process in most recipes (though not vice versa). Flavor and texture can be affected, but generally only in recipes calling for 3/4 cup or more.” However when a batter-based recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch-process cocoa powder. But I always advise folks to follow what the recipe says. For sauces and ice creams, they can be swapped out. For cakes and cookies, I don’t recommend it, as your results may not be the same if you make substitutions.

If a recipe calls for either, the main different is that Dutch-process cocoa will give a darker color and a more complex flavor whereas natural cocoa powder tends to be fruitier tasting and lighter in color.

Here are a few cocoas I like that are great in brownies, devil's food cake and other chocolate treats: King Arthur Flour  Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa,  Callebaut, Guittard, Valrhona and Ghirardelli.

The following recipe is adapted from Alice Medrich for Cocoa Brownies. Cocoa brownies have soft centers and crunchy 'crusts'. I love these, and as I've said before, you can never have too many brownie recipes. Use the very best cocoa!

Cocoa Brownies

10 tablespoons sweet butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder Dutch-process
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Position rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
Line bottom and sides of 8 x x8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in medium heatproof bowl and set  bowl in wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
Remove bowl from skillet and set aside briefly until mixture is warm, not hot.
Stir in vanilla with wooden spoon.
Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
When batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Spread evenly in lined pan.
Bake until toothpick comes out slightly moist-20 to 25 minutes.
Cool completely on a rack.
Lift up ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer brownies to a cutting board.
Cut into squares.

Friday, April 27, 2012

CHOCOLATE PIXIE PIE: Vintage Ad & Recipe

It's a beautiful Spring Day! The flowers are blooming, the warm breezes are blowing--a perfect day to make Chocolate Pixie Pie. This Baker's Chocolate advertisement is from April 4, 1955.  As always, you can adapt this retro recipe to today's palette by substituting your own ingredients.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

April 25 is National Zucchini Bread Day, not to be confused with National Zucchini Day which falls on August 8, the time of year when zucchini seem to multiply and grow overnight and take over the vegetable garden. You can find zucchinis in the market now, although depending on where you live it might put the cabash on being a locavore. Or, you can save this recipe and plant seeds now! By August 8, you'll have an abundant harvest.

This is the fourth time National Zucchini Bread Day has rolled around since I started blogging here at In 2009 I posted recipes for Geeky Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (fabulous!) and Amy's Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread(very good), as well as some zucchini lore and links to other Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipes. Last year I posted my go-to recipe for Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread that I adapted from an old Sunset Magazine. Last summer I posted one of my favorite recipes for Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Pistachios. Love the green and green!

So today, I decided to step a bit out of the box of the holiday and post a simple easy recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. O.K. Not exactly Zucchini Bread, but who doesn't love a good muffin?

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Makes 18 muffins

1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups shredded zucchini
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup DARK cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
1/2 cup dark chocolate (65-75% cacao), chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 350.
In large bowl, pour boiling water over zucchini.
Add other ingredients (except chocolate chunks) and stir until just combined.
Fold in chocolate chunks.
Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups (or grease muffin tin)
Using 1/4 cup measure, pour batter into cups.
Bake for 30 minutes.

How easy is that?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chocolate Bytes: Vosges' Wild Ophelia Bars

According to Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff is launching a lower-priced chocolate brand for the mass market.  

Wild Ophelia Bars come in a variety of 'American' flavors including Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chip, Peanut Butter Banana, Mount Sequoia Granola, Beef Jerky and Southern Hibiscus Peach.

Suggested retail price is $3.99, half the price of Vosges bars, which sell for $7.50 in Vosges boutiques and $8 at Whole Foods.

Products are available at Whole Foods and Cost Plus,  with other stores to follow. According to the company, Markoff developed the Wild Ophelia brand to offer all natural chocolate and artisan ingredients to a broader audience.

The official launch is slated for the Sweets & Snacks Expo May 8.

I haven't tasted these yet, but will keep you posted when I do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CHERRY CHEESECAKE BROWNIES: National Cherry Cheesecake Day

Today is National Cherry Cheesecake Day. You can make a Cherry Cheesecake with a Chocolate Cookie Crust.. or you can make Kerrian's Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake and add a Cherry topping.

Want to make something different? These Cherry Cheesecake Brownies adapted from Deb Wise's recipe in Cooking Light, September 2011 are great.

The matzo cake meal in the cheesecake thickens the batter and allows for a creamy texture to the cheesecake, but you can substitute regular all-purpose flour for the cake meal.


1/2 cup chopped dried tart cherries  (I use Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon Kirsch or another cherry liqueur
1/4 cup sugar
6 ounces cream cheese (low fat or not)
1 tablespoon matzo cake meal
1/4 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Cooking spray
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened DARK cocoa
4 ounces dark chocolate (70-85% cacao, fair trade), finely chopped
6 tablespoons sweet butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. For cheesecake: Place cherries and Kirsch in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH 45 seconds or until boiling; let stand 20 minutes.
Place 1/4 cup sugar and cream cheese in large bowl; beat with mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until smooth. Add matzo meal, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg; beat just until blended. Stir in cherry mixture.

3. For brownies: Coat 9-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray; dust with cocoa.
Combine chocolate and butter in microwave-safe dish; microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, stirring every 20 seconds. Let stand for 5 minutes--or combine in double boiler over simmering water, then let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, egg whites, and 1 egg.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir chocolate mixture into flour mixture.

4. Scrape half  brownie batter into prepared pan.
Dot half of cheesecake batter on top.
Top with remaining brownie batter.
Dot with the remaining cheesecake batter.
Swirl batters using tip ofknife.
Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.
Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
Cut into squares.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

National Jelly Bean Day: Jelly Belly

Today is National Jelly Bean Day, and my favorite jelly beans are Jelly Bellies! I love all the flavors, and I've tried the Jelly Belly chocolate covered jelly beans at the Fancy Food Show. The Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips are gourmet jelly beans covered in dark chocolate. Flavors include Very Cherry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Coconut, and Orange. Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips are gluten-free, gelatin-free and certified OU Dairy Kosher. My favorite is the Very Cherry. Just an FYI, there is no hard candy shell on the actual jelly bean center, so the chocolate covered jelly beans are the same size as regular jelly beans. This chocolate jelly bean has a real chocolate aroma and a nice mouth-feel.

If you want more of a 'plain' chocolate Jelly Bean, try the Chocolate Pudding jelly belly.

I love to take young out-of-towners to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA. There you can see jelly bellies being made, tour the art exhibit, stop by the soda fountain, buy jelly bellies and much more. When I first went to the factory, it was more open and low key. Now it's a bit more sterile and everything is behind glass walls. I'm sure that's better for production, safety and quality, but I preferred the old way. Kind of like the Hershey Factory tours when I was little. I was sure someone would fall in a vat, and maybe they did. That was pre-Willy Wonka.

I don't bake with jelly beans, and, if truth be told, they're not in my pantry. But there's always a time and a place for them, especially today on National Jelly Bean Day. So here are some 'recipes' from the Jelly Belly website for combining flavors. Great Fun!

Jelly Belly California Grizzly Painting

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls

So many ways to celebrate Earth Day with Chocolate. Last year I posted a recipe for Earth Balls, but these are even easier and fun to make.


12 ounces peanut butter (organic crunchy or smooth)
1 cup organic sweet butter, softened
16 ounces powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Madegascar vanilla
12 ounces milk or semisweet (40-65% cacao) chocolate
Sea salt or Kosher salt

Mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla and sugar until well combined. Use your hands or mixer. Roll mix into balls and drop onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze for one hour.

Melt chocolate chip in top of double boiler or microwave. Dip peanut butter balls in chocolate usingtwo forks or special chocolate dipping tool. Put back on parchment paper. Use spoon or mini-spatula to put chocolate on bare spots.

Wash hands. Sprinkle salt on top before chocolate dries. Put in refrigerator to set up.

Alternatively, you can coat the balls in chocolate and then roll in chopped peanuts (have 2 cups chopped peanuts ready).

Friday, April 20, 2012


The weather promises to be warm and beautiful this weekend, so I thought I'd post this fun recipe for King Louie's Banana Boats from one of my 'Theme" Cookbooks: Cooking with Mickey and Friends by Pat Baird.  You'll go Ape over These. They're fun to make with the kids.

Since we barbecue all year round, I often make these on the grill, but you can just as easily follow the directions and make them in the toaster oven.

And, as Mickey reminds us, Bananas are a good source of potassium and carbohydrates. Use a good dark chocolate (broken up) or high quality dark chocolate chips, and you're adding antioxidants. You can make your own marshmallows, too, or not :-) You'll love King Louie's Banana Boats.  You'll want to make more than one!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amaretto Truffles: National Amaretto Day

Today is National Amaretto Day. Amaretto. Amaretto is known as the Liqueur of Love.

A little background about Amaretto from HomeCooking: Amaretto is a liqueur with an almond flavor, but surprisingly, it may or may not contain almonds. The standard base of the liqueur is primarily made from apricot pits, and may contain any number of added spices and flavorings. The original version was made in Saronno, Italy. Amaretto is Italian for "a little bitter."

Amaretto History
The Lazzaroni family of Saronno, Italy, claims the title as the inventors of amaretto. They invented the Lazzaroni amaretto cookies around 1786 for the King of the region. Then in 1851, they created the Amaretto Liqueur, which consisted of an infusion of their cookies with a little caramel for color.

Another legend from the Reina family (who formerly worked for the Lazzaroni family) tells of amaretto being created by a widow who posed for Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini in 1525. The widow fell in love with the painter and made her amaretto potion for him. Her original recipe has purportedly been handed down from generation to generation without change and is currently marketed as Disaronno® Originale Liqueur.

Whatever the source, this wonderful liqueur of love goes well with chocolate. What doesn't go well with chocolate? Here's an easy recipe for Amaretto Truffles. Make some today.


4 Tbsp sweet butter
14 cups whipping cream
5 Tbsp Amaretto
12 ounces dark chocolate (70-75% cacao, organic, fair-trade)
ground or crushed almonds (or hazelnuts)

Heat butter and cream in top of double boiler. (185-210 degrees-if you have a thermometer). Don't boil.
Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons Amaretto and all the dark chocolate.
Return to heat and stir until chocolate is melted (not very long).
Stir in rest of Amaretto.
Pour into mixing bowl and refrigerate 2 hours until firm.
Roll with hands into 1-inch balls.
Freeze until very firm (about 30 minutes).
Roll in ground almonds or hazelnuts
Store in refrigerator -or eat right away!

Here's a Vintage 1977 Ad for Amaretto.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chocolate and Animal Crackers: National Animal Crackers Day!

Today is National Animal Crackers Day. The original animal crackers of my childhood didn't have a lot of flavor, but even now when I think of them I remember zoo and circus visits and the unique taste. These trips were always exciting, and animal crackers were an important part of the experience, as that was the only time I ate them.  I remember the red cardboard boxes with pictures of animals in cages (sad now, but I didn't think about that then) and little flat strings to carry your box.

Today there are many different brands of animal crackers--vegan, chocolate, chocolate covered, covered with icing and sprinkles and so many more. There's the original Barnum's Animal Crackers, and I really like Barbara's (all natural) Snackimals Double Chocolate and Snackimals Chocolate Chip.

Want to dress up your store bought Animal Crackers today to celebrate National Animal Cracker Day? Dip the animal crackers in Chocolate:

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers/Muddy Boots

Melt a good dark chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave.
Dip animals and let cool on waxed paper.
You can either dip most of the animal (and use forks or special dipping tools) or just dip the feet as I did with the Walker Scottie Dogs with Muddy Boots. I like Trader Joe's Animal Crackers for chocolate dipping.

Want to get fancier? Healthy Happy Life ( has a Chocolate-Covered Vegan Animal Cookies post with great photos and recipes.

There's even a Website devoted to Animal Crackers:  Here you'll find a variety of recipes for animal crackers  such as Homemade Animal Crackers, Oatmeal Animal Crackers, Classic Animal Crackers, Cheese Animal Crackers, Chocolate Animal Crackers, and many others. Animal Crackers have been a snack since the mid nineteenth century. Today they are made by numerous well known companies, such as Keebler, Nabisco, or the Stauffer Biscuit Company. Although store bought varieties can be great, you might want to try some homemade animal crackers.

Recipe adapted from

1/3 Cup of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup of Organic Toasted Rolled Quick Oats
1/2 Cup Softened Real Butter
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of Kosher Salt
3/4 Cup of Cold Whole Milk

Preheat  oven to 350 degrees.
In Blender, mix organic toasted rolled quick oats, with flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and kosher salt.
Pulse until base mixture is completely ground up into delicate powder, and color and texture are even and consistent.
Pour this mixture into mixing bowl, and vigorously stir in cold whole milk and softened real butter. Stir until dough becomes stiff, adding any extra milk if you need to.
Roll animal cracker dough into ball on clean flat surface, then flatten it out into a quarter of an inch thickness.
Using animal cracker or cookie cutters, make as many shapes as you can with the dough.
Place your finished shapes on lightly greased baking sheet. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes, or until crackers are crisp.
Cool on wire wrack for half an hour.

Waiter, there's an Animal Cracker in my soup! Animal Crackers make a great starch for soups and stews.  Last year I posted a recipe for a great Chicken Mole Polano made with Animal Crackers.  Or try this recipe for White Chocolate Mole with Animal Crackers.

Want a sweet chocolate soup with Animal Crackers? O. K., this is more of a dessert. This recipe was originally found on the Hershey's Cocoa Box.


3/4 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa
1 egg yolk

Heat half-and-half. Pour into bowl, leaving about 1/4 cup in saucepan or cup.
Add sugar, vanilla, cocoa to pan and mix until it is a syrup. Add egg yolk and stir over low heat. Gradually stir in preheated half-and-half. Stir until blended and thick. Pour into bowl.
Top with animal crackers.

Here's a link to several other Cocoa Soup recipes. All go well with Animal Crackers!

Enjoy this video clip of Shirley Temple singing Animal Crackers in my Soup!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dying for Chocolate Bracelet: Pattie Tierney

My worlds collide again. Pattie Tierney is a food blogger and mystery reader. She's been a guest here on with some killer chocolate recipes. Recently I posted the following on, my crime fiction blog, but I knew people who read this chocolate blog would also be interested in Pattie and this bracelet, in particular, so I'm reposting here.

Pattie Tierney has a passion for travel, dining, photography, and mysteries, and writes about them all. She has published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Personal Journaling Magazine, The Diarist's Journal, and Ink & Ruminations. Her art has appeared in The Rubber Stamper, Signatures: The Art Journal Collection, ATCs: An Anthology of Artist Trading Cards, Somerset Studio and Stamper's Sampler magazines.

Her Agatha Christie Mystery Charm Bracelet was featured in the holiday gift guide of BUST magazine's December 2006 issue as one of the "must have" gifts for the year. In 2007 her "Methods of Murder" charm bracelet and Agatha Christie Typewriter Pin were both included in the Mystery Gift Guide of Mystery Scene Magazine. Pregnancy Magazine featured her Jane Austen bracelet in their 2008 Valentine issue. Her Clue Game Piece Bracelet was featured on the online site in November 2009 as one of 7 Cool Products Made from Board Games. Tierney has designed jewelry for various organizations including USA Today, Sisters in Crime, Short Mystery Fiction Society, Forensic U and the St. Charles Public Library system.

The former editor of The Baker Street Chronicle, a Sherlock Holmes journal, her current project, Recipes To Die For, is a mystery cookbook full of recipes from actors, authors, and readers who perform in, write, or read mystery stories.

Pattie Tierney:

I once read an article on Marilyn Monroe that quoted her as saying that she wore no jewelry because she didn't want to wear anything that might detract from her beauty. Of course, Marilyn Monroe was 36 when she died. Had she lived, she'd been two months away from celebrating her 86th birthday. My guess is that, unless she chose to nip, tuck, Botox, and lipo, she'd have bagged, sagged, and dragged with the rest of us. And, like the rest of us, she'd have adorned her body with some pretty dynamic baubles to divert attention from the, um, baggage, saggage, and draggage.

Unlike Marilyn, I've always been a jewelry wearer, but as I got older I wanted jewelry that represented the "me" that I know I am rather than a reflection of someone else. Herein lay the problem: I am a mystery fan. And, as I found out after many hours of tireless search, no one makes mystery jewelry.

Armed with no more than an idea, desire, and a bit of chutzpah, I bought a book on jewelry making, a package of assorted jewelry-making tools, a collection of beads and findings, charm bracelet chain, and a handful of charms, some culled from broken bits of jewelry that had been taking up space in my jewelry box. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but had an image in my mind as to what I'd hoped would be the end result.

The task was slightly more daunting than I'd imagined, but I love a challenge and in little less than a month I had created my first piece of mystery jewelry, a "Murder and Mayhem" bracelet devoted to Agatha Christie. It sold the day it listed. It was a good feeling to know that I was not alone. That, out there, somewhere, was at least one other formerly frustrated mystery fan looking for jewelry. The benefit of a mystery focus is that inspiration can be found everywhere. From Dame Agatha to Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden, Nero Wolfe to Charlie Chan, I was making bracelets as fast as you can say, "It was a dark and stormy night." Then, I thought, why not make a "Dark and Stormy" bracelet? How about a city bracelet like "Sherlock's London?" Characters, authors, even "Methods of Murder" have all found their way to becoming bracelets.

My latest creation, inspired by none other than Janet Rudolph and recently released is called (what else?), "Dying for Chocolate" and features murder weapons, poison labels, antique chocolate labels and beads in colors of milk and dark chocolate. Dastardly and delicious!

Order the Dying for Chocolate bracelet: Don't be distraught if the etsy shop says it's sold. Pattie will make one for you.
See more jewelry designs at Pattie's Etsy Shop
Visit her paper goods and mystery gifts shop 
Follow Pattie Tierney on Twitter @pattietierney
Pattie's Food blog: Olla-Podrida 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Death and Taxes Truffles

April 15: Tax Day. "The only things certain in life are Death and Taxes." This quotation is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, The Yale Book of Quotations quotes “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” from Christopher Bullock, The Cobler of Preston (1716). The YBQ also quotes “Death and Taxes, they are certain,” from Edward Ward, The Dancing Devils (1724). No matter who said it, it's true. And, just in time for Tax Day 2012, Socola Chocolate has created a truffle to mark the day: THE INEVITABLE EDIBLE Truffle. Perfect for Tax Day.  It's a dark chocolate truffle made with Santa Rosa's Moonlight Brewing Company's Death & Taxes stout.

Socola is a San Francisco artisan chocolate company, the brain child of sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu. Their truffles feature flavors from burnt caramel with sea salt to sriracha (Sriracha Flying Rooster Chocolate Truffles--my favorite!).

After meeting with Moonlight brewer Brian Hunt at the Fancy Food Show in January, the Lieu sisters developed a truffle that features the regional favorite Death and Taxes. The Inevitable Edible has a smooth center robed with dark chocolate. The  beer flavor in Death and Taxes is subtle. I tasted this Incredible Edible at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. Excellent. If you need a stronger beer flavor to get you through tax day, try their Guinness Truffle.

A little history of the Lieu sisters from their website:
Wendy, the older of the two sisters and is Sôcôla’s chief Chocolatier. A pastry school graduate, Wendy began experimenting with Klutz's Cookbook for Kids at age nine and with truffles recipes at age nineteen. She holds a degree in managerial economics from UC Davis and works as a consultant in San Francisco, but chocolate is where the heart is: mostly self-taught, she finds that her thoughts wander frequently now to new truffle recipes, and she’s even begun dreaming up ganache concoctions in her sleep.

By contrast, Susan couldn’t tell the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons as a child, and her early attempts at friendship bread (referred to as the Great Salt Incident of ’95) tasted like the Dead Sea. Her talents lie outside the kitchen, as a fundraiser, activist, and saleswoman. A Harvard graduate with a degree in Social Studies, Susan feels most at home when she’s stirring up fervor in people—whether for sustainable farming methods in Vietnam, international relief for refugees in Africa, or for her and Wendy’s chocolates.

When Wendy began experimenting with chocolate recipes in 2001, she never intended for the truffles to be anything other than Christmas gifts, but her friends and family members kept asking where they could find more of them. One neighbor suggested that she try marketing and selling the chocolates, which inspired Susan to begin promoting. Weeks later, Wendy and Susan (then nineteen and sixteen years old) were featured on KSRO 1350's Pat Thurston Show. They chatted excitedly about their chocolates, took in callers, and raffled truffles, and audiences throughout Sonoma County fell in love—with the girls no less than with the truffles.

Sôcôla Chocolates can be found  Bi-Rite Market, some Whole Foods Markets, Chocolate Covered, online at their website, and at many specialty chocolate shops.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Salted Chocolate Pecan Toffee

I love Pecans. They're filled with anti-oxidants, and they taste great. Add chocolate and toffee, and you have a winner. So since today is National Pecan Day (as opposed to Pecan Pie Day or Pecan Sandie Day), celebrate.

Several years ago I found a fabulous recipe in Sunset Magazine, December 2007, for Salted Chocolate Pecan Toffee. I've been a subscriber to Sunset for more years than some of you have been around, and they really test their recipes. This is a no-fail recipe that I've tweaked only slightly, and you'll love the results. Remember to buy the freshest pecans and the best chocolate. If you have a pecan tree, that's even better! And, as always, experiment with different chocolate.

Too much work? Make Margaret Maron's Chocolate Covered Fried Pecans.


2 cups pecan halves
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups sweet butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Madegascar vanilla extract
12 ounces DARK chocolate (70-85% cacao, fair-trade, organic)
2 teaspoons fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place pecans on rimmed baking sheet and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 8 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Divide into 2 batches; chop 1 batch finely. Set both batches aside.
2. Put sugar, butter, salt, and 3/4 cup water in 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. When butter and sugar are melted, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and measures 310° on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla (mixture bubbles up) and finely chopped pecans. Pour into a 10x15 rimmed baking sheet. Let toffee cool until set, at least 30 minutes.
3. Chop chocolate and put in a medium metal bowl. Fill an 8x10 frying pan with 1/2 in. of water and bring to a boil. Take off heat and put bowl of chocolate in the water. Let sit about 5 minutes. Stir chocolate until melted. Pour over toffee, and with knife or spatula, spread evenly. Sprinkle chocolate with roughly chopped pecans. Let sit 20 minutes, or until chocolate is cool but still a bit soft. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill until set, about 1 hour.
4. To remove, gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store in airtight container.

A warning from Sunset, and it's true.. be careful!
Use caution when working with sugar syrup, as it can cause severe burns. Set out your baking sheet so it's ready to use, and keep ice water nearby to cool any burns.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Scrabble Cakes: National Scrabble Day

Today is Scrabble Day, and I'll admit I'm addicted to Scrabble. I love words, so Scrabble has always been apart of my life. I even had a mini-scrabble game that I carried when I backpacked across Europe many years ago. That was pre-internet, pre-game devices. I now have an iPad, and, of course, I have Scrabble on it, and I play every day. So, if you're like me, you'll love this medley of cake photos I found on the web. Full disclosure: none of them are mine, but I identify them and list the source. Let me know if you've made a Scrabble Cake or saw one at a party. Love to include your photos!

This unique Scrabble wedding cake was made for a bride and groom who played Scrabble together over the internet while he was stationed in Iraq. K, worth five points, was at the top because both the bride and groom have names starting with K. I love this cake from the PinkCakeBox Blog.

And a few more:
 From Sweetthings-Toronto comes two Scrabble Related items:
A Wedding Cake and Cupcakes.

And, from come photos of this Scrabble Cake for Word Lovers from the National Capital Area Cake Show:

And, from CakeCentral comes this Birthday Cake spelling out greetings for an 80th Birthday:

Happy Scrabble Day!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sweet Chocolate Orange Marmalade Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, and, of course, I've posted many different variations on Chocolate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. So today here's one more. Bread, Butter, Cheese, Chocolate--and Orange Marmalade! What could be better?

I love my Panini Press, but this one should be made on the stove in an iron skillet. My mother used to make her fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches in an old iron skillet with the top of a small iron lid pressing down on the sandwiches. Both were inherited from my grandmother. I have the lid (with a 1950s era blue handle), but not the original skillet. Interesting what we hold on to.

This recipe is great for Sunday Brunch. It's sweet, so if you'd like another version, just add a bar of chocolate, some cheese--and place in between buttered challah or another bread. This recipe is too creamy ( and oozing) for the panini press, so make it in a big skillet. Reduce amounts if it's only two of you. Try this recipe to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day.. or save it for brunch this weekend.

Sweet Chocolate Orange Marmalade Grilled Cheese Sandwich

6 ounces Mascarpone
2 Tbsp Orange Marmalade
2 Tbsp Butter (room temperature)
8 slices Challah or Brioche (sandwich size)
8 ounces Brie (sliced 1/4 inch thick)
14 ounces Dark Chocolate (65-75% cacao, fair-trade, organic), chopped

Combine orange marmalade and mascarpone.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, buttered side down on work surface. Spread mascarpone mixture on bread. Place brie slices over mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chunks.
Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered side up.
Heat large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in pan, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Watch carefully.
Turn sandwiches, pressing each firmly with spatula or heavy pot lid (smaller than the skillet).
Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until undersides are browned.
Remove cover, turn sandwiches over and press firmly with spatula or pot lid again.
Cook until cheese has melted completely.
Remove from pan and let cool 2-3 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Pet Day: Healthy Dog Treats

Today is National Pet Day, and I thought I'd post a recipe for Dog Treats. No chocolate, though. Chocolate is poisonous and sometimes fatal to dogs. The following recipe is from the All Natural Dog Treat website. Topper, my golden retriever, likes peanut butter, so I thought I'd post this recipe.  If you want to get fancy, cut the treats/cookies with a dogbone cookie cutter. And, remember, everything in moderation, and that includes treats for your pet.

Peanut Butter Goodness Dog Treats

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup peanut butter (all-natural or organic)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine oil, peanut butter and water. Add flour, one cup at a time, forming a dough. Knead dough into firm ball and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.
2. Cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kerrian's Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake

Once again my crime fiction and chocolate world collide, as I welcome mystery writer/reviewer Patti Phillips. Patti writes the online detective blog, (Detective Kerrian chats about life as a detective as well as the case featured in Patti’s novel, One Sweet Motion.) Her love of cooking (and therefore Kerrian’s) spills onto the recipe pages of the blog. This special dessert will appear soon on the website, but makes its internet debut today on

Patti Phillips is a writer/photographer whose best investigative days are spent writing, cooking, traveling for research, and playing golf. Her time on the golf course was murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices? Of course, it helps to avoid suspicion if you work on lowering your handicap while plotting the dirty deeds.

Patti’s book reviews of mysteries and thrillers can be found on the Facebook, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble sites. Her own review site, ‘Nightstand Book Reviews’ is coming soon.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina.

I love this cheesecake, especially the chocolate chip cookie crust!

Patti Phillips:
Kerrian’s Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake

Detective Charlie Kerrian loves pie! This yummy chocolate dessert was a great complement to his St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Serves 8-10

Vegetable oil for springform pan (I use almond oil)
20- 2” chocolate chip cookies
4 Tbs butter (salted)
10 oz. Ghirardelli milk chocolate baking chips
10 oz. Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate baking chips
1/3 cup extrafine sugar
12 oz. whipped cream cheese
1 pint heavy cream
2 Tbs. Bailey’s Irish Cream
sour cream and fresh fruit (picture shows strawberries)

Kitchen tools/supplies to have on hand for this recipe:
8” springform pan
Parchment paper
Pot with double-boiler insert
Standing electric mixer with large bowl & paddle attachment

Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and wipe the sides with oil. Crush the cookies with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, remove from heat, then stir in the crushed cookies. Press the cookie/butter mixture into the bottom (and ½ inch up the sides) of the prepared pan. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Place all the chocolate into the top of the double-boiler, with gently simmering water in the bottom. Melt the chocolate, stirring frequently until thoroughly blended. Remove from heat.

Add sugar and cream cheese to the mixing bowl and beat on lowest speed until smooth. Slowly add the heavy cream and beat on the lowest setting until thick and creamy. Slowly add the melted chocolate and continue to beat on lowest setting until thoroughly blended. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl and beat again. Add Bailey’s and mix until blended. Mixture should now have thick pudding consistency.

Spoon into the springform pan and then level surface with butter knife or spoon. Chill in refrigerator for 2-3 hours (until very firm). Transfer to cake plate and serve with fresh fruit and sour cream. Also nice with ice cream.

Recipe variation:
If you don’t own a springform pan, or are not comfortable using one, the recipe will also work nicely in a 9” deep-dish disposable pie pan. Press the cookie crumb/butter mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the unlined disposable pan, then follow the rest of the directions as written. Spoon any extra filling into ramekins, chill, garnish with fruit, and serve as individual desserts.

Photograph: Patti Phillips. Kerrian and Patti can be found at They promise that no bodies have ever been discovered in Kerrian’s Kitchen. ☺

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cartoon of the Day

One of my favorite comic strips is Rhymes with Orange by Hilary Price. I often post her "mystery' cartoons on Mystery Fanfare, but this one is perfect for

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chocolate Bytes: Why are Chocolate Easter Bunnies Hollow?

Why are Chocolate Easter Bunnies Hollow? The answer to this question is explored in the Smithsonian blog.

The experience inspires a host of sermons and metaphors about how life is full of disappointments, why you shouldn’t judge by appearances, and so on. Chocolate bunnies can be, as this New York Times article puts it, “the child’s first taste of deception.”

Are candy makers conspiring to teach us a lesson?

Of course not. The answer is simple, according to one chocolate maker: hollow bunnies are easier to eat.

“If you had a larger-size bunny and it was solid chocolate, it would be like a brick; you’d be breaking teeth,” says Mark Schlott, vice-president of operations at R.M. Palmer in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the first and largest manufacturers of hollow chocolate bunnies.

Read the rest of the article HERE. Fascinating!

Easter Chocolate Molds: Bunnies, Chicks and Eggs, Oh My!

I adore Chocolate Molds, particularly the older metal ones. Here are a few great Chocolate Molds for Easter!  It's all about Bunnies, Eggs and Chicks!

Vintage Easter Chocolate Advertisements

I love Vintage Advertisements. Put on your Easter Bonnet and enjoy some Chocolate!

Happy Easter!