Easiest Valentine's Chocolates

I had some chocolate left over from some cookies I had dipped. There was probably about 6 oz. or so. It was a mixture of semi-sweet chocolate and milk chocolate (when I was finished with the cookies, I had simply combined all the chocolate into one container). I couldn't quite decide what I was going to do with this block of previously melted chocolate that was sitting in my refrigerator. One day at a kitchen store, I saw a little red, heart shaped, silicone candy mold, and I knew that's what my leftover chocolate had been waiting for!

This is one of the easiest things you'll do, and they turn out so nicely. My more artistic friends will think of ways to dress these up- drizzle them with something, pop them into a little cellophane bag tied with a bow, or nestle them into a cute little box. 

Easiest Valentine's Chocolates

You will need:
Chocolate chips, your favorite kind
Microwave safe bowl

Silicone candy mold

1. Melt chocolate according to package directions. To make the chocolate a little smoother and easier to pour, you can add a bit of shortening or coconut oil (about a teaspoon per 6 oz. of chocolate). 

2. Pour chocolate into molds. Do not overfill over the brim, or the chocolates will not come out quite as nicely and smoothly. Gently tap the mold on the counter two or three times to shake any air bubbles up to the surface. 

3. Refrigerate molds until chocolate is completely set and solid. 

4. Pop chocolates out of molds, and you're done! Store tightly covered. If your house is warm, you may want to keep the chocolates refrigerated.

Print Recipe

Notes: I wasn't quite sure whether to oil the molds or not. Most sources I consulted said it was not necessary. I very lightly oiled the molds for the first batch (put a little oil on my finger and lightly went over the insides of the molds). For the second batch, I washed and dried the molds and did not oil them at all. I couldn't tell any difference in how the chocolates came out. 

Easiest Valentine's Chocolates may have been taken to some of these fun parties, including Metamorphosis Monday.

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Treasure Box Tuesday 56

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New Goals.

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Looking for something a little different for a Valentine's Day treat? Chocolate Almond Biscotti may be just the thing. Long, crunchy cookies with a rich chocolate flavor are made to be savored slowly over a cup of coffee or tea.

Biscotti have been around for a long time. Centuries ago, they were originally made as a”long-shelf-life” food (very dry and containing no fats) for travelers and were carried by the Roman Legions to battle. Today’s biscotti, while still hard and crunchy, are a far cry from the original, and are a popular accompaniment to espresso, cappuccino, and dessert wine. Their unique texture makes them perfect to dunk in your morning coffee, afternoon tea, or wine after dinner (History of Biscotti).

These are also the perfect cookie to send through the mail if your Valentine is far away. You still want to pack carefully, of course, but they are very sturdy.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti 

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs (divided use)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional- I don't care for it, but some do)
3/4 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
coarse sparkling or crystal sugar
sharp serrated bread knife

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place rack in the middle. Line a half sheet (18x13; mine is 16X11) cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat 3 eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract (if using). Gradually stir dry ingredients into egg mixture. Mix just until combined.
3. Mix almonds and chocolate chips into dough until mixed throughout and dough holds together. Dough will be very stiff.
4. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half. With slightly wet hands, pat dough into rectangles, slightly rounded on top, about 1" to 1.5" thick. Place rectangles on prepared cookie sheet. 
5. Mix the one egg that is left with 2 teaspoons of water and whisk until well combined. Brush the tops of the dough rectangles lightly but completely with egg mixture, then sprinkle evenly with sparkling sugar.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until dough feels firm to the touch, especially center tops. Remove sheet from oven and let cool on rack for about 20 minutes, or until cookie rectangle can be handled comfortably. Turn oven down to 325 degrees. 
7. Carefully remove cookie rectangles onto a cutting board. Using a very sharp serrated bread knife, slice into 1/2" slices. You can cut these from the long side, from the short side, or diagonally, just depending on how long you want your biscotti to be. Diagonally is pretty, but it's harder for me to get even slices when I cut diagonally, so I just went with a straight cut. :)
8. Place the biscotti cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning cookies over halfway through baking time. Cookies should be firm and dry, but not browned.
9. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then on cooling rack until completely cool. Store tightly covered. These keep well for several days. Makes about 24, depending on how you cut them. 

Print Recipe

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti may have been taken to some of these fun parties!

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Organizing and Decluttering Ideas

The new year is all about new starts and fresh beginnings. So many of us use the new year as the perfect time to organize and declutter. 

Here some really great ideas to inspire you and get you started- everything from the kitchen to the kids' playroom to your personal planner!

                                            Click here to share! :)  

Organizing and Decluttering Ideas may have been shared at some of these fun parties!

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New Goals.

New Ways to Meet Those Goals.

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Clementine Simple Syrup

I recently found myself with more clementines (Cuties, Halos) than I could use before they ruined. I love using flavored simple syrups, so that's how I decided to use most of them.

You can use a simple syrup in lots of different ways:

  • Brush cakes or cupcakes with it for extra flavor and moistness; they'll keep fresher a little longer, too.  
  • Delicious in tea, hot or cold (and dissolves instantly in iced tea, unlike granulated sugar)
  • Use to sweeten and add a boost of flavor to homemade lemonade. 
  • Use to flavor and sweeten cocktails 
  • Drizzle lightly onto a fresh fruit salad

Clementine Simple Syrup adds a nice, mild, citrus flavor and aroma wherever you use it. And isn't it pretty? It's like having a little jar of sunshine.

Clementine Simple Syrup  Print
Makes a little over 1 cup

2 cups sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed clementine juice, strained

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the juice and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a low boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Strain if desired- there may be tiny bits of pulp in it. The pulp doesn't bother me- I do not strain. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated. Keeps several weeks (indefinitely, actually; I just don't know what the FDA's recommendations are on this). 

Notes: At its very simplest, simple syrup is made from sugar and water. Some people like a 1 to 1 ratio (1 part sugar to 1 part water), and some people prefer a 2 to 1 ratio (2 parts sugar to 1 part water). I have made and used both, and prefer a 2 to 1 ratio. It's sweeter and thicker. It works out about the same- you use more of the 1 to 1 syrup to get the same level of sweetness in the 2 to 1 syrup.

You can also replace water with juice, as I have done in this recipe. I've also made simple syrup using sugar, water, and citrus zest, as in this Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup.

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Clementine Simple Syrup may have been taken to some of these fun parties!

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Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

If you've promised yourself you will try to make healthier choices this year, I have some good news for you. These cookies are a great choice for breakfast or snack time. Not only do they taste good, they're also a winner in the nutrition department.

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies are hearty, with a chewy, tender, cake-like texture. Their sweetness does not come from any refined sugar, but from fruit and a little honey or maple syrup.

Whole wheat pastry flour keeps the cookies healthy and tender (not heavy or hard). Running the raisins and coconut through a food processor ensures that a little sweetness is in every bite.

I love sweets and carbs, but if I try to start the day with just sweets and carbs, such as a beautiful plate of pancakes and syrup, I will crash almost before I can finish eating. I've got to have some protein and fiber. According to this recipe analyzer, each large Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie has 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.

Keeping your New Year's resolutions can be delicious. 

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies (Healthy)  Print
Makes 28 (2 tablespoon size) or 14 (4 tablespoon size)

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats, divided use
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)*
1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)*

1 cup raisins
1/4 cup shredded coconut

2 very ripe bananas, mashed well
2 eggs
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened)
2 tablespoons honey OR real maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, warmed to liquid, if necessary
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup oats, soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and set aside.
3. In a food processor, combine the remaining 1 cup oats, raisins, and coconut. Pulse until uniformly chopped to the size of medium crumbs. My food processor is small and tired, so I process in 2 batches. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture.

Raisins, coconut, and oats after processing

4. In a small bowl, combine bananas,eggs, peanut butter, applesauce, honey OR maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and well-combined. Pour into flour mixture and stir just until no traces of flour remain. Mixture will be fairly thick and somewhat sticky.
5. Using a 2 or 4 tablespoon scoop (leveled), drop balls of dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Flatten slightly. Cookies will not spread or flatten further as they bake.

Ready to bake

6. Bake for about 13 minutes (2 tablespoon size) or about 17 minutes (4 tablespoon size), or until cookies are set and are just starting to brown a bit around the sides. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and place cookie sheet onto wire rack. Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheets onto wire racks until completely cool. Store tightly covered. Even better the next day. Can be frozen.

*Notes: Spices are optional. The cookies are very good either way. Without the spices, you taste more of the banana and peanut butter. With the spices, those flavors become less pronounced, and it becomes more of a spice cookie.

Larger ones made with an ice cream scoop (4 tablespoons)

Happy healthy eating!

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We've gone to these fun parties~

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