Cocktail Time: Triple Chocolate Martini

Triple Chocolate Martini

I’ve been intrigued lately by all the different types of vodka that are available. It’s amazing what is out there. I mentioned before I had discovered whipped cream and cotton candy vodkas, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Now I love chocolate, I’ve mentioned it before, many, many times, so when someone told me that Godiva made a chocolate vodka well I couldn’t not get a bottle and then you’ve just got to play around with a new “toy” and in this case the “toys” would be my new martini shaker and martini glasses. I had been looking for glasses that were a bit different than just your standard glass and when I saw the ones pictured in this entry I instantly fell in love! I love cobalt glass, and I loved how this glass had the cobalt rim, bottom and swirl. I also love how it is basically stemless!

Anyway…I got sidetracked by my glass love. Let’s get back to the martini!

A few weeks ago I played around with an idea for a chocolate martini and it was good, but this version turned out so much better! I decided to just go all out chocolate for this one. Chocolate drink, chocolate drizzle, chocolate whipped cream. I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much chocolate!

What You’ll Need for the Chocolate Whipped Cream:
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
1/3 cup of cocoa

In a bowl of a mixer add all three ingredients. Mix on low until incorporated and then turn to high and beat until stiff peaks form.

What You’ll Need for the Martini:
1 shot of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
2 shots of Godiva Chocolate Vodka
1 shot of Chocolate Whipped Cream Vodka
1/2 cup of sparkling water
Ice
Chocolate or hot fudge sauce
Chocolate whipped Cream (see above)

In a martini shaker add chocolate liqueur, and the two vodkas, along with the sparkling water over ice and shake to mix well.

Add two or three tablespoons of chocolate sauce to the bottom of a martini glass and then pour the martini mixture over the chocolate. Top with the chocolate whipped cream.

At this point you can serve the drink as is:

Triple Chocolate Martini

Or you can drizzle on a little more chocolate sauce:

Triple Chocolate Martini

Now it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little piece of chocolate heaven!

Notes: Be careful because this is a bit strong if you have a low alcohol tolerance such as I do. I keep all of my vodka in the freezer, but I like to shake it with ice anyway. The colder the drink the better!

Happy 8th Birthday Alexis!

Alexis on her 8th birthday

Dear Alexis,

How is possible that 8 years have gone by since the day you were born? It seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing the missive for your 6th and 7th birthdays! Time passes so quickly and seems to more so now that you are in my life.

Eight years ago today you blazed in to my world and it changed me forever. Before you have children people will tell you how much it will change not only your life, but you as well. I knew things would change, but I didn’t understand the extent to which that was true. Before you were born I knew love, but I don’t think I even came close to understanding what love actually was. Once you arrived I had no doubt that I completely grasped what it was to love someone. Parents always say that their kids have changed them, but you truly have changed me and I think for the better.

As trite as it might sound you are my sunshine, just like the song I sing to you so often before you go to bed. I see the entire world through your eyes and things that I have long since gotten over the wonder of look brand new through you. You bring the shine back to the simplest of things, a flower, a butterfly, a book, a song. I love looking at things through you. You completely change my ideas on a regular basis. You challenge me in the best ways, even on days where I am over your drama and just want to sell you to the circus! Even on those days you can still amaze me in big ways. I love that about you.

I loved seeing New York at Christmas through your eyes. I can’t wait to see a Broadway show through your eyes this fall. I loved that we had been on the streets of New York for less than 10 minutes and you turned to me and said, “Mom I so want to move here!” You see life as an adventure and life really should be just that. I’ve loved watching you learn and grow. Everyday you learn something new and many days you teach me a thing or two as well. I like that about you.

I’ve mentioned before how caring you are, but it still amazes me how much this grows with you. You are my little empath. You feel in ways that astound me, in a good way. If someone is happy, you are happy with them. You reflect their joy. If someone is sad, you’ll cry with them and do anything you can think of to make them feel better. You are the most caring person I’ve ever known. This is another thing I love about you.

I worry sometimes that you are too empathetic and the big bad world is going to come in an squash you like a little bug. My heart broke for you at Papaw’s funeral. You were devastated, partly because you were and partly because you were feeding off of the sad energy in the room. As I held you close and told you everything was going to be ok, you got this look on your face like you knew it was true. It wasn’t until after the funeral that you stopped crying, but you realized that life hands you things you might not like, but you have to muddle through. You always pull yourself up. I love that about you.

I’ve told you before, but I still hope that all your dreams come true. You have such big ideas about the world and how it should be. You want to make things better. I really like that about you. I hope that you never lose that wide eyed wonder of the world. I hope you go and see and do. Don’t end up regretting the things you never did. Do them! You’ll regret what you didn’t do much more than the things you did even if they don’t turn out the way you might have hoped. One thing that will never change is that you can learn something from any situation, whether it be good or bad. The important part is to learn and move on to the next adventure. Trust me, there will always be another adventure, all you have to do is hope, dream, look and find. Enjoy life! You only get one.

The most important thing to remember is that I always love you. I am your biggest fan and your most ardent supporter. I will always be there to listen, to hold you when you cry, to help you understand the things that might seem completely incomprehensible, to help when you need a hand. I’m so glad that you came in to my life. I’m so glad that you are you. Never change to suit someone else. It’s essential to be yourself. If you have to change to have a friend then they aren’t worth having and aren’t a true friend to begin with. You are amazing just as you are.

Love,

Mom

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Garnished

I’ve become obsessed with grilling. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I loved to grill! But once I met Jamison I didn’t grill as much because he’s very picky about how his food is prepared and hates being outside.

I know, I know! Have I mentioned lately my culinary skills are lost on him?

Anyway, I’m becoming snarky at my old age of 37 and I’ve decided by golly I’m going to grill more often and I have been! I like to grill in the spring, fall and winter, because I’m also not so keen on the heat during the summer. I don’t want to stand over a scorching grill when it’s 90+ degrees outside. But really that’s neither here nor there in the grand scheme of this salad, so we’ll move on.

I started thinking about making a grilled salad. The idea of warm salads intrigues me, but up until this point I had not had a warm salad that I actually cared for. I like potato salad warm occasionally, right after it’s been made, but that isn’t really what you think about when you think about a salad.

I’ve heard of people grilling lettuce chunks before, but that didn’t really appeal to me. I might try it someday, but for this I wanted more hearty/sturdy vegetables and definitely bread. What’s not to like about bread?

I also decided I wanted some sort of grilled seafood added to the mix. Alexis and I both love shrimp and lobster so I decided to go with one of those. I had some lobster tails in the freezer so that ended up being what I went with this night. Our local store puts them on sale occasionally for $3 to $5 for a nice sized tail, so when they do I buy a few and freeze them for later use.

The lobster is really a great grilling “fish” because of its shell. You don’t have to worry about putting it on a cedar plank because it will flake away on the grill like you would with a fillet of fish. When it’s a bright red color it’s ready to go! This usually takes 15-20 minutes depending on the heat of your grill.

So after I had the idea I started chopping and this is what resulted. This is a perfect summer time dinner that doesn’t take a lot of time, but you end up with a really fabulous result. My kind of dinner!

What You’ll Need for the Salad:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes cut in half
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 small package of button or baby Portabella mushrooms
1-2 bell peppers, cut into big chunks
2 carrots, cut into thick sticks
1 large zucchini, cut into big chunks
1 large red onion, cut into thick strips
1/2 loaf of day old french or Callah bread, cut into cubes
1-2 lobster tails
Grated Parmesan

First mix up your dressing and set aside:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Dressing

See the recipe below for the dressing. Shake again really well before adding to the salad.

Then sprinkle your veggies with a little sea salt and pepper and then toss with some extra virgin olive oil to thinly coat:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Veggies Ready to Grill

Next sprinkle your cubes of bread with sea salt and toss with a little olive oil as well:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bread Tossed with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Now we’re ready for the fun part…Grilling!

I like to use natural charcoal. It gives the food such a wonder flavor and it doesn’t have any of the weird chemicals in them that many other brands do. I like to use Stubb’s. They don’t have their charcoal listed on their website, but I’ve found it at Lowe’s.

Now to use a charcoal chimney or not?

I really love the ease of use of a charcoal chimney. You don’t need lighter fluid, which is again an accelerant and who wants to add that to your food, because if you’re cooking over it your food is absorbing whatever is burning underneath it.

BUT

I don’t think that a charcoal chimney holds enough charcoal to actually cook something well. I like a lot of coals going beneath my food. So lately I’ve been using brown craft paper spread throughout the coals to use as “wicks” if you will and splash a little PGA on top of the coals to get it going. Be careful if you’re using the pure grain alcohol because that stuff ignites fast and big!

Once your coals are hot you’re ready to start grilling!

I like to do the “sturdier” vegetables first. The softer the vegetable is the faster it will grill. You also want to get your lobster tails on first as well. The bread will come last.

So you grill and flip:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

And grill and flip:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

And grill and flip some more:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

As you can see some of my veggies “jumped” into the grill because I was careless when turning them. The bigger the chunk of vegetable, the less likely you are to lose it through the slits of the grill. Live and learn as they say. Or maybe in this case it would be do and learn.

When things become done you’ll remove them to a plate or platter and set them aside until the other aspects of the salad become done:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilled Lobster and Bread

When you grill the bread be careful. Each side will literally grill in 30 seconds or less over direct coals!

Once everything is grilled it’s time to assemble your salad!

First place the bread in the bottom of a bowl:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bread

Next cut the grilled tomatoes into wedges and then add to the bread:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Tomatoes

And then the mushrooms:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Mushrooms

And the bell peppers:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bell Pepper and Carrots

Zucchini:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Zucchini

Onions:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Onions

And then add the carrots and roughly chop the lobster meat and add to the bowl as well:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Lobster

Finally sprinkle the veggies with some Parmesan:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Parmesan

And some of the dressing (see recipe below):

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Ready Toss

And it’s ready to toss!

Now dig in and enjoy!

Notes on the Salad: As I mentioned above you could use shrimp in place of the lobster or even a cedar grilled salmon would be great too. I sometimes like to serve this with extra grilled vegetables as you can see in the picture at the top of the entry. You could also use grilled squash or cherry tomatoes, or whatever you like in place of, or in addition to what I used.

What You’ll Need for the Dressing:
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic or champagne vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon of dried Italian Seasoning mix
~OR~
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried basil
2 teaspoons of dried oregano

Add all ingredients to a glass jar. Put on an air tight lid and shake until mixed. Use to toss the salad.

Notes on the Dressing: You can use either type of vinegar that you like. I like to use balsamic when I want a bigger flavor punch. I use champagne when I want it a more delicate flavor.

Chocolate Covered Cheesecake

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust

Cheesecake…..

Even the name makes me daydream. There is just something about a creamy, cold cheesecake that makes it the ultimate dessert for me. Give me cheesecake, Mexican food, goat cheese, Vodka and some good bread and I’d be perfectly happy on a deserted island. Oh and a cute cabana boy to wait on me hand and foot…Sounds like my kind of life! ;oP

What? Never mind! Where was I?

Those of you who have been readers of Dianne’s Dishes know I have somewhat of an obsession with Cheesecake. I mean cheesecake has an entire category on my blog all to itself! Cheesecake should be a food group, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again!

This cheesecake takes the best of two worlds, cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies and marries them together to make a fabulous overall dessert. Top the cake with some chocolate ganache and you have rich sin on a plate! A little slice of this cheesecake is more than enough at one sitting, but oh what a slice it is!

What You’ll Need for the Crust:
10-12 Back to Nature Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 F with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Now let’s talk about the chocolate chip cookie crust. For this crust you need a hard variety of chocolate chip cookie. A soft cookie will not work. I like the Back to Nature cookies because they are natural.

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chop the cookies until roughly the size of peas:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Chocolate Chip Cookies Crumbled

Stir in butter until mixed:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Crust Ready to be Pressed in to the Springform Pan

Press cookie mixture in to an 8 inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Crust

Set aside.

Notes for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: When I make a graham cracker crust from scratch I usually add a little bit of sugar to the crust. When using the chocolate chip cookies that isn’t necessary unless you really just like things sweet. You could add in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar if you wanted.

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Baked

What You’ll Need for the Cheesecake Batter:
2 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of vanilla
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour

When making a cheesecake it is ESSENTIAL to make sure that your oven is preheated BEFORE you begin baking your cake so make sure your oven has preheated before you put in the cheesecake.

I like to bake my cheesecakes in a water bath, which helps keep the cheesecake from cracking that much (if at all) as it bakes. I usually just fill up my tea kettle with water and set it to boil as I’m making the crust and the filling of the cheesecake. You want enough water to come up the pan about half way when you place it in a baking dish.

In a large bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat until incorporated.

Next add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes slowly add flour and mix until smooth.

Wrap the outside of your spring form pan that has the crust pressed in to the bottom with aluminum foil to keep water from seeping in to your cheesecake as you bake.

Pour batter in to prepared pan:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Ready to Bake

Place pan in a deep baking dish and pour boiling water in to the dish being sure not to get any water in the cheesecake itself.

Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and crack the door of your oven (Some call this the broil position) and let the cheesecake sit untouched for another hour.

Take the cheesecake from the water bath and set on a towel to absorb moisture. Next remove the aluminum foil:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Baked

As you can see as the cake baked it pulled away from the sides of the pan a bit. Doesn’t it look great already?

Store cheesecake covered in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Notes on the Cheesecake Batter: At this point, once it’s chilled you could dig in to the cheesecake right then as is, but who wouldn’t want a bit more chocolate? There’s no such thing as too much chocolate despite what Jamison might say! ;oP

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Ganache

What You’ll Need for the Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Remove the ring of the springform pan and place chilled cheesecake on a plate that is big enough to catch any overflow of the ganache. Place back in the fridge until ganache is ready.

In a medium sized sauce pan melt butter in heavy cream and then bring to a simmer. Stir in chocolate chips and stir constantly until they are melted and the mixture is smooth. This takes 1-3 minutes to melt.

Once the ganache is smooth pour the mixture over the chilled cheesecake:

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: With Ganache

Chill cake for at least another hour before serving.

Notes for the Ganache: You could use milk chocolate or dark chocolate instead of the semi-sweet chips.

And as always this cheesecake is sous chef approved!

Chocolate Covered Vanilla Cheesecake With A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust: Sous Chef Approved!

Notes Overall: This a very versatile cheesecake and you can change things here or there to your liking. Adding mini chocolate chips to the batter would be a great addition, or adding in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cocoa to make a chocolate cheesecake would be fabulous too!