3-ingredient (super quick) mango-coconut sorbet

In light of the intense heat, busy days, and oven repair that's been going on here, I come to you today with a quick, cold, no-cook/bake, super-simple frozen dessert. This mango-coconut sorbet takes just 3 ingredients and about 2 minutes to make from start to finish.
This reminds me of banana "ice cream" because it really is as simple as tossing a few ingredients into a blender and letting it whirl.  I saw the recipe - if we can even call it that because it's so simple - on Ellie's Real Good Food on PBS this past weekend and thought I'd give it a try.

For 2 servings, start with about a cup and a half (8 oz.) of frozen mango chunks.  Add 1/4 cup of light coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of honey.  Then, blend until smooth. Add a bit more coconut milk, as needed, and taste to see if the sorbet is sweet enough for you.  That's it!
Straight out of the blender, the sorbet is soft as shown directly above.  It's totally ready (and very good) to eat immediately.  If you prefer to firm it up a bit (as shown in the other photos), place the sorbet into a container, freeze it for 20-30 minutes, and then scoop and enjoy.  
This mango sorbet, with a hint of coconut flavor, is light and refreshing.  I love how it's not cloyingly sweet like many mango sorbets on the market.  And since it takes only 3 ingredients and about 2 minutes, it's certainly worth making right now!



Chocolate banana pudding

After making that chocolate silk pie recently, I had some extra chocolate wafer cookies on hand.  I decided to put them to use for a couple of these chocolate banana puddings.
Unlike classic banana pudding, where slices of bananas are layered with vanilla pudding and Nilla wafers, this one has chocolate pudding and those thin "Famous" chocolate wafer cookies.
I started by making a relatively simple chocolate pudding, using semi-sweet chocolate.  Once the pudding's done, it's quick and easy to put the chocolate banana puddings together.  I made two individual servings but feel free to double the recipe I've listed and layer it into an 8-inch serving dish to serve family-style.

In my case, I started by spooning a layer of pudding into a serving glass, followed by a layer of thinly sliced bananas, then the chocolate wafer cookies.  I repeated the pattern one more time and topped it with a final spread of chocolate pudding.  After that, I stored the chocolate banana puddings in the refrigerator overnight.
Before serving, I topped them with some freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  My oh my, they were delicious!  I now know why these thin chocolate wafer cookies exist - they magically transform from crisp, dry cookies into soft, moist cake.  What a great shortcut!  And as I took a bite and sampled it, I kept thinking it reminded me of something - something very good.  Then I realized...it was like our favorite banana bread with chocolate chips, which is a very good thing, indeed!  So if any of these words trigger a happy response from you - chocolate, pudding, cake, banana, cool, creamy... - I highly recommend you give this one a try!



Chocolate peanut butter brownies

Just a few days ago, I saw a post over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe for something that I had to make...chocolate peanut butter brownies!  You might look at the brownies and wonder, "where's the peanut butter?", since there's no indication of it, no swirls to look at.  Like Nutella brownies, the peanut butter has been incorporated into the batter and while you do not see it, you will taste it.
There were a couple of reasons why this recipe called out to me.  Firstly, I always welcome an excuse to bake a batch of brownies!  Who's with me on that?  Secondly, I'm on the lookout for simple, fun, tasty things to bake with my son.  He had a break in summer camps this past week and when I saw the brownie post, I thought it would be a great thing for us to whip up together.  So once again, my little helper and I present another baking experiment from our summer kitchen!
We're really happy we made these chocolate-peanut butter brownies.  They are incredibly moist and fudgy in texture, yet surprisingly light at the same time.  You smell the heady aroma of the peanut butter and taste the creaminess and flavor it adds to the brownies.  They are a wonderful treat for those who love chocolate and peanut butter.  As someone who craves peanut butter a lot, they hit the spot for me and frankly, it was hard to stop eating them.
My son thought these would turn out to be like peanut butter cups (i.e., very good) and they didn't disappoint.  So not only did I get to have another fun baking session with my young fella but we got a great brownie recipe we'll surely be making and enjoying again in the bargain.


Chocolate silk pie

We're staying on the track of decadent desserts today. Think of it as a counterbalance to all the fresh produce and crunchy salads we're consuming during these summer days.  It's all about balance!  
I made a chocolate silk pie for the first time.  It has a chocolate wafer crust as its base and a signature silky smooth, mousse-like, chocolate filling.  My son took his first bite and said "mmm...buttercream" and frankly, I think he was pretty spot on; the filling is like chocolate buttercream so you can picture what we're talking about here.  
One note of disclosure about chocolate silk pie - it's made with raw eggs.  That isn't a big concern for me personally but it could be for some and I understand that pasteurized eggs is an option to consider.

Though I've thought about chocolate silk pie for some time, I haven't made it until now - not because of the raw egg issue but because my family already has a favorite chocolate (pudding) pie that's a whole lot lighter.  When you find something you like, you tend to stick to it.  That said, I figured it was time to mix it up just a little and give chocolate silk pie a try.  
Unsweetened dark chocolate gives this pie unmistakable chocolate flavor while butter gives it serious richness.  The eggs are essential to achieving the silky, mouse-like texture, to the filling.

Make the pie and let it sit at least a few hours to set up before serving.  I'd recommend an overnight chill since we preferred it nice and cold, and thought the flavors were even better with time to develop and meld.  This is as rich and smooth as it looks - a real treat.  Serving small slices, taking the time to savor the rich yet silky lightness of this pie, is the way to go.   
My family really enjoyed this and for me personally, this pie conjures up the chocolate pies I used to eat as a kid.  The difference is those came from the freezer aisle at the supermarket.  I didn't grow up eating many American or European-style desserts but there were a few things we used to buy at the supermarket...Entenmann's for one, a chocolate layer cake from Pepperidge Farm, for another...and lastly, chocolate pie from Sara Lee!  I think it was my brother who started buying those chocolate cream pies and I know I devoured them as a kid, thinking they were the greatest thing!  

I'm certainly happy to upgrade myself from those freezer-aisle desserts to homemade but those familiar childhood treats will always have a special place in my heart, and they always bring a little smile to my face when I see them at the supermarket.



My happy place...(involves hot fudge sauce)

If you think about it, we all have a happy place...someplace that makes us smile and where we feel relaxed and comfortable.  You probably have more than one happy place.  I know I do, and funny enough, one of my happy places is an ice cream shop...Ghirardelli's, to be exact (it might seem that way but this is not an advertisement), though I generally feel pretty contented in most ice cream parlors.
My homemade version of Ghirardelli's Treasure Island sundae: ice cream, hot fudge, and a brownie
I love the warm feel of Ghirardelli's ice cream shops when I step in the door - the aroma of hot fudge mingled with warm waffle cones in the air, not to mention brightly wrapped chocolates everywhere I turn.  It's my idea of heaven!  Maybe another part of the appeal is I associate them with vacation.  I tend to seek them out beforehand and if there's a Ghirardelli ice cream parlor somewhere we're vacationing (from San Francisco to Hawaii, Chicago to Florida, or Boston), I make a point to visit.

My favorite thing to get at Ghirardelli's is their Treasure Island sundae, a classic brownie sundae with ice cream and hot fudge sauce.  Ice cream and hot fudge sauce are my kryptonite...it's probably more about the hot fudge than even the ice cream but the two need each other, and what a perfect couple they make!  If I take one bite, I will not be able to stop.  Before I know it, I've eaten way more than I intended to, but I'm so happy.    
Homemade vanilla bean ice cream; Ghirardelli's hot fudge sauce recipe
So I thought it would be fun to re-create my favorite sundae at home (especially since there isn't a Ghirardelli ice cream shop near where I live).  I started with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, then I made Ghirardelli's hot fudge sauce (with my son), and finished it off with a batch of our favorite homemade cocoa brownies.

I was excited to try the Ghirardelli hot fudge sauce, wondering how it would compare with the miraculous concoction we get at the ice cream shop.  It isn't exactly the same as what you get fresh on site but I really like the discernible taste of the Ghirardelli 60% chocolate used in the sauce (it's one of my favorite chocolates to use for baking). I think it's much better than the jarred sauce you can buy from Ghirardelli.  In comparison, I think the homemade sauce is thicker, somewhat grittier, sweeter than the free-flowing sauce you get from the shop.  At a guess, I think that one involves cream whereas this recipe doesn't.
Though the hot fudge sauce may not the stuff of dreams on its own per se, the combination of the ice cream, the hot fudge, and the brownie made for a swoon-worthy combination.  My homespun version tasted so much like what we get at the Ghirardelli shop!  I did feel transported to one of those tables at Ghirardelli and I was definitely in a happy place...my husband and son, eating with me, were in the same happy place right alongside me!
A squirt of whipped cream, a sprinkle of nuts, and a cherry on top makes a brownie sundae all that much more appealing!
As we all know, so many of our memories involve food in some way.  One of mine goes back a couple of years ago, when we were in San Francisco during my birthday. I wanted to go to the Ghirardelli ice cream shop for a birthday treat.  We had visited the Ferry building and then walked...and walked...to the ice cream shop.  By the time we got there, we were exhausted and ravenous.  We ordered our treats and when they arrived at our table, my son and I threw ourselves on top of our Treasure Island sundae (not to mention the ice cream floats) with such ridiculous abandon and speed that I think we scared my husband.  My hubby took pictures of us chowing down on our sundae and it makes me laugh just thinking about it.  A small thing, a little moment, but something I think I'll remember years and years from now, with a smile on my face...



Pistachio, orange and chocolate muffins

Call me crazy but I'm still turning on the oven and baking away in the midst of this sizzling hot summer.  Thank goodness for air conditioning!  
When it comes to routine or relaxing through baking, I think of cookies and muffins. They're easy, low-maintenance bakes that are always appreciated around the house. It is undeniable how convenient it is to grab and plate a muffin or two for breakfast on a busy weekday morning, whatever the season!
This time, I made muffins and I zoomed in on one of my favorite flavor combos: pistachio and orange, with a little chocolate thrown in to make it even better. I'm quite fond of this combination in cake and cookie form and I've been itching to make a muffin version, so here we are.
This is a tender muffin, not too sweet, nor too rich.  I didn't feel like I was eating a cupcake in disguise and that could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective.  You could easily make and top these muffins with a spoonful of glaze (confectioners' sugar mixed with a bit of orange juice or milk) to add extra sweetness on top.  I didn't since I figured the chocolate provided enough richness.
While the recipe I started with called for yogurt, I substituted with buttermilk, which was what I had on hand.  A little fresh orange juice and zest adds bright fruitiness and I tossed in a little vanilla extract to complement it.  Chopped pistachios are stirred into the mix (I reserved some to sprinkle on top).  Finally, I added some finely chopped dark chocolate.  I really liked the chocolate (no surprise there, I suppose) and, in retrospect, I actually wish I had added more because, inevitably, you keep looking for that chocolate bite!


Texas sheet cake

It's summer and that means making time to hang out in the kitchen and work on a cooking project or two with my son.  Most recently, we made a Texas sheet cake together, and it was such fun!
I'm calling it "Texas sheet cake" rather loosely because although there doesn't seem to be a definitive explanation for the term, "Texas sheet cake", our version omits a lot of what makes it what it is.  Specifically, we didn't bake the cake in a sheet pan; rather, I divided the recipe in half and baked it in a 9-inch square brownie pan (hence, the cake isn't Texas-style "big", either).  We also omitted two things - ground cinnamon and pecans - that you often find in a classic Texas sheet cake.  I decided to forego them because my son isn't a big fan of those ingredients and frankly, I wanted to make sure he'd enjoy what we baked. 
Even with the modifications we made, I'm still keeping the "Texas sheet cake" moniker because ultimately, the way the cake is prepared is so unique. Even my 11-year old could tell that the method of making this cake - cooking wet ingredients over the stove and pouring the hot mixture over the dry components to combine - was unusual!  But that's what made it fun and part of the reason why I picked this for a baking project.  It provided a lot of hands-on cooking for the little guy and he did an admirable job!  For a boy who isn't too interested in cooking, quite frankly, he seems to be pretty comfortable in the kitchen.  Maybe these little cooking sessions, even if relatively infrequent, do more and have a bigger impact than I realized...
There was another reason I thought of making this cake with my main man (aside from the somewhat obvious consideration that this super sweet treat would go down well).  We recently took a road trip to Virginia.  After many hours on the road (traffic on I-95 is no joke and we also had to contend with a flat tire midway there), we stopped into a Cracker Barrel to eat and I ordered a slice of Coca Cola cake for us to try for dessert.  Not surprisingly, the little one was a big fan of that and I thought this cake would be very similar (it is) and a fun thing to make now right after the trip.
To make a long story shorter, my little guy gave our cooking collaboration two-thumbs up!  I tell you - this is a sweet cake, with a moist, fluffy texture.  The icing is poured on the top of the warm cake and it seeps slightly into the cake, making it all the more moist.  It goes down very easy and has a nostalgic flavor to it somehow.  

It's certainly true when people say that kids will enjoy things they helped to make (though maybe I should make something vegetarian with him next time to test that theory); I just think it's doubly true when what they made was cake - and Texas sheet cake, at that!  He gobbled up his fair share of this cake and his dad was certainly another very happy beneficiary of this kitchen session of ours.  For my part, the best thing was spending the time in the kitchen together, watching my son do so much now, and sharing an enthusiasm for something together.  That's even better than eating cake!



Chocolate bouchons

Chocolate therapy can come in many forms.  Aside from unwrapping a bar and taking a bite, I find that baking with chocolate is a form of therapy in itself.  When things are a little crazy, I find all is right with the world when I fall back on making chocolate desserts.  Thank goodness for chocolate!
With the kitchen mishaps I'd been having, I reached for one of my trusted sources for good recipes and dug into David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Chocolate for inspiration.  I decided to make bouchons, or what I think are best described as small brownie-like cakes.  
When I think of bouchons, I think of Bouchon Bakery; I've had their signature chocolate bouchons and they are little cakes, shaped like a "bouchon", which means "cork" in French.  I've always wanted to make bouchons because any chocolate lover welcomes the chance to make/eat a chocolaty, fudgy, brownie-like cake.  I always figured I had to get the little bouchon mold for the job but I finally realized I could just bake them in a regular or mini muffin tin - or better yet...make somewhat larger - yet still mini - cakes using individual paper molds.
So I made the chocolate bouchon batter and baked a few in individual freestanding paper molds.  These molds make great single-serve portions.  They un-mold perfectly and you have a lovely little chocolate cake to serve each person.
Much like brownies, it's important not to overbake these cakes.  They should be soft inside, revealing a moist middle when you dig into it.  These cakes are solid - hearty and rich chocolate cakes that are a little crumbly and a whole lot chocolaty.  We're talking chocolate cake batter made with dark as well as unsweetened chocolate and some mini chocolate chips thrown in to drive the point home.

I think this will satisfy any chocolate lover's craving.  And I can tell you that if there's anything better than baking with chocolate, it is eating chocolate (or chocolate cake). I think we should all work this into our summer schedule.


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