Category Archives: Brownies & Chocolates

Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake with Chocolate Syrup {churned by Willy Wonka’s chocolate waterfall}

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Exactly 7 days ago, our school hosted its annual Edible Book festival! And you bet your chocolatey pants that I entered.

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After last year’s Calvin and Hobbes success, I gave myself exactly two days before I started brewing up ideas for this year’s festival. The idea behind the Edible Book Festival is simple: pick a book, create a food display inspired by the book, and show it off to a happy, hungry public. Perfecto, no?

Now is a self-proclaimed amateur connoisseur of both children’s literature and baked goods, you can imagine the sort of schoolgirl high I get every time the end of March rolls around. I mean, edible books? You might as well slap my name all over the marketing flyers and call it a day.

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This year I decided to go the literal route and use the book that’s chock filled with edible references. Growing up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t on my list of favorite books–it wasn’t even on my radar until the seventh grade, and by then I wanted nothing to do with the grotesque author who had written abominably disturbing works such as The Witches. (I mean, have you read that book? Yeesh!)

In fact, it wasn’t until I began teaching children’s literature at the university level that I read the novel in its entirety – once, then twice, then five times and ten. I couldn’t get over all the zany demises of Charlie’s rivals, or the wonderfully awful Quentin Blake illustrations accompanying these descriptions – and let’s face it: a book all about chocolate? Twelve-year-old self, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???

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Once the cogs started turning, there was no chance in holy fudge tarnations that they were going to stop. I knew I wanted to do a display inspired by my favorite part of the books: the tragic disappearances of each of the four naughty children who enter Willy Wonka’s factory.… Read more

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Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies for #SundaySupper

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When I was 5, my mom told me I was allergic to chocolate.

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Now, you’d think that a future 20-year product of the public education system would have smelled something fishy, but I smelled nothing but the tantalizing, forbidden scent of chocolate.

Believe it or not, the ruse lasted until age 10, when we were selling Hershey’s bars for a school fundraiser and I sank my teeth into a gorgeous, silky chunk of chocolate heaven.

Half a decade of my life. Irretrievable. Lost. Goner than a koala chucked into a black hole.

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Aside from those five years of chocolate-less existence–and opting out of meat–and okay, my insanely picky palate–I’ve never had eating restrictions, really. At least not the kind of allergy that will debilitate you and close your throat and send you to the hospital with an EpiPen sticking out of your arm. Thank goodness.

I’m lucky in that respect, but it really wasn’t until grad school that I met friends who really did have food allergies. One of my closest classmates is allergic to a whole score of things, including nuts, dairy, and soy. I’ve told you about my recent student who has all of those allergies, plus corn, bean, fruit, and gluten allergies. Another guy in my office has Celiac, meaning gluten is a no-go for him, either. And this one’s not just a fad diet or a “gluten sensitivity,” I’ll tell you that much.

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That’s why you may have noticed a lot more “allergy-friendly” recipes around the blog lately. Have you checked out last week’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Peanut Butter Mousse Parfait Cups? Seriously though–gluten-free doesn’t need to mean un-tasty. In fact, I’ve had so much fun baking GF lately, my friends with gluten allergies have started asking whether the latest batch of treats is gluten-free–and it’s so nice when you can make someone who usually can’t participate feel included in something as simple as dessert.… Read more

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Easy English Toffee

Spoiler: majorly embarrassing stories ahead……

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Yesterday, over lunch, my friends and I were sharing our best embarrassing stories. You know, the ones that made you blush so hard you thought your face was actually going to combust into a bunch of fiery napalm and set ablaze everyone within 15 square yards of you. We’re not talking the kind of mild embarrassment that happens when you walk in late on the first day of class and get called out by the teacher.

We’re talking stress-dreams-of-getting-caught-stark-naked-in-a-Costco-parking-lot-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of embarrassment.

Unfortunately, I’m terrible at calling up examples while they are still relevant (i.e. during conversation), so I didn’t contribute much to our lunch sharing session. I did enjoy a very nice Afghani spinach flatbread, though.

But as it turns out, this is very lucky for you guys, since I’ve decided to spend this Friday sharing a few of my favorites with you! None of which involve unwanted nudity, thank goodness. So without further ado….

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Quite a few years ago at Disneyland, I was waiting in line for the bathroom next to Adventureland. There I was, fiddling with my gray Tigger jacket sleeve, minding my own business, when I suddenly look up and notice an Asian man with short-cropped hair, spectacles, and a rather square jaw standing in front of me.

Of course, I immediately feel embarrassed for the poor man. Can he read English? His unfashionable red sweater and khaki pants tell me he might be a tourist (thank you, vast over-stereotyping), and as we get closer and closer to the front of the line, I start fidgeting. Finally, when I see the “Women’s Restroom” sign passing us by the restroom entrance, I decide I can’t let him go through the agonizing embarrassment of walking into the Women’s restroom by mistake. So I do the worst thing I could possibly do in such a situation: I tap him on the arm.… Read more

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Vegan Walnut Fudge {Raw + Gluten-Free}

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I know I promised to share “something juicy” with you in Monday’s blog post about these awesome cookies. That just goes to show two things: that a) I probably shouldn’t make promises I don’t have a mind to keep, and b) for future reference, you probably shouldn’t trust me when I say I’m going to tell you something juicy. I didn’t even have time to blend a fruity drink and present it to you as a punny example of my exceptionally dry humor.

So nothin’ juicy today. Just me and this fudge that disappeared in about 30 minutes when I took it to the office this morning…

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The funny thing about this Vegan Walnut Fudge is that it actually turned out to be a total accident and delicious failure–if you can call addictingly healthified fudge a failure. This year it turns out that one of my nicest students is allergic to basically every edible substance known to my kitchen: gluten, soy, dairy, strawberries, grapes, corn, beans, apples–the works.

You can believe that when I heard this news during that first day of classes, I was utterly mortified. That shock, however, soon transformed into a (slightly perverse?) excitement about rising to the challenge. Hold my wine glass and let me roll up my sleeves, Marty-O, because this gal’s about to do a crazy one in the kitchen!

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The intervening weeks have been filled with tons of crazy experimentation, tons of label-checking and Googling, and an unprecedented intimacy with allergy-free and dietary-friendly ingredients I had never touched. Did you know that baking soda is pretty solidly gluten-free, but that some baking powders do contain gluten products? Or that peanut butter can be made with soy? Or that certain brands of powdered sugar also include unexpected additives such as cornstarch?

Because this fudge contains powdered sugar and my student is allergic to corn, I couldn’t very well serve it up, meaning I had spent an entire afternoon carefully dancing around with this recipe for nothing.… Read more

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies Oreo Brownies (Vegan) + PB&Co. Giveaway

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Fact: Everyone else’s life looks cooler than yours.

Did you just get a promotion at your accounting firm? Congratulations! Your former classmate just got bumped up to CEO of a high-profile tech company that makes life-saving microchip nanobots.

Also, that dorky kid whom you all made fun of in high school is now happily married with a newborn on the way and wedding pictures that make you want to drown your face in your toilet bowl. Meanwhile you are blasting Hunter Hayes’ “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” on repeat and devouring a tub of cookie dough ice cream like your life depends on it.

If you’re me, you’re also watching that wonderful 1999 movie “Never Been Kissed” featuring 25-year old journalist Josie Gellar (played by Drew Barrymore opposite the extremely dreamy Michael Vartan) and wondering vaguely to yourself if you’ll feel quite so warmly about this movie when you’ve gotten beyond 25 and are, alas, still very much a chronically romance-challenged Josie Grossie.

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Fact: You are 99.9% convinced everyone else’s life IS cooler than yours.

Fortunately, this “fact” confirms one thing for you: you’re certainly not alone in this feeling. While you’re busy hovering jealously over your friend’s newly published YA novel, somebody else is contemplating whether or not to Like your recent post about your new blog. Maybe they do decide to Like it, and you would never know the full 10 minutes of internal struggle that went into that seemingly simple choice.

Would it seem creepy to Like this, considering I haven’t actually spoken to them in four years? your brain asks in torment. Do I want to endorse their coolness? Would doing so make me feel worse about myself in comparison?

The wonderful Nancy from Gotta Get Baked, for whom I have immense respect and love (she is one amazing cookie), called my attention not too long ago to an article on this very topic.… Read more

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Rocky Road Brownies for #SundaySupper

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These brownies aren’t the only crazy thing happening around here this week, though they are insanely fudgy and I made boxes of these for friends who loved them and I’m selling them online here so if you want them without so much as stepping a toe into your kitchen, I can make that happen now.

Crazy? I love crazy.

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Just about 45 minutes ago, I got off an epic long late-night phone call (yes, it’s 3 AM and I manually pressed the Publish button on this post) with my friend. I’ve been prone to lots of anxiety and high-stress nights lately for seemingly no reason, so catching up with her (instead of spending the evening wringing my wrists to a pulp) was a pleasant change of pace.

At one point, she mentioned rereading this blog post I published back in June about defining self-worth–if you haven’t read it yet, I spill a whole bunch of juicy confessions in it about my life and insecurities that are interesting and probably mildly entertaining. From there, we started talking about just about everything: about the difficulty of living up to expectations, feeling burnt out from Life, piecing together bits of our life through expert stalking social media surfing, the recent guys in my idiosyncratic love life, and, oh yeah: my recent tendency to eat my feelingz.

Mostly because #school. And maybe some of the aforementioned guys stuff. (Thankfully none of them think big-picture enough to actually read my blog #middleschoolalloveragain)

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With these brownies just schlumming around the house all the time now and getting wrapped up for Etsy orders, I shouldn’t be surprised I’m eating my weight in feelings these days. Thick, fudgy, gooey, crunchy feelings.

However, one of the best reminders to come up in our conversation was the importance of taking time to reflect on our own lives.… Read more

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German Chocolate Brownies for #SundaySupper

I’m not usually an eat-my-feelings kind of girl.

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Lately, though, I have had ALL the feelings, and that called for eating my weight in brownies. Because let’s face it–who the heck did I try to kid 5 seconds ago when I said that eating a whole panful of chocolate won’t solve every problem, ever?

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Exactly.

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Truth be told, I have been particularly terrible lately about eating my way through feels. Is anyone else this way, or did you all just sprout from miracle baby trees where this stuff doesn’t happen?

I was definitely born on a food pantry tree, probably of the sweets variety, because this pan of absolutely rich but not-too-cloying brownies did not make it out the doorway unscathed.

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I’ll admit it: one of the reasons you see brownies and bar cookies on my blog so often is that, unlike cookies (which are a solid, impregnable unit) and cakes (which, let’s face it, look butt ugly when you’re not supposed to slice into it yet and you start picking off random pieces anyway so it looks like a freakin’ mouse got to it first), brownies are SO easy to cut into.

Slice a smidge here. Oh, I’ll trim a little bit more off the edge. Now OCD dictates that I must make all the brownies the same size, so let’s do it–for the better good. You can even see the knife marks since I sliced into them after they were cold from the fridge.

Let’s trim them ALL and stuff our face with the scraps!!

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These brownies: lord. After making this bomb Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake for #SundaySupper a few weeks ago, I knew I had to use up that scrumptious frosting on something else, and thus these big bad brownies were born. With an incredibly fudgy base using one of my favorite brownie recipes, topped with a creamy not-too-sweet chocolate frosting, and topped with toasted coconut, nuts, and some of that chantilly frosting…

It’s a damn good thing I’m running 13.1 miles tomorrow morning.… Read more

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Healthy Sticky Fudgy Chocolate Cake/Brownies (GF, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, & Weird-Free)

Hi there. Yeah, you. I think you’re a really smart and charming person.

No, really! I mean it. And if you leave me a note after reading this post, I’ll take the time to personally tell you what’s great about you, too.

Healthy Sticky Fudgy Brownies 2--080214 (GF, Dairy-Free)But now stop and think for a moment: when was the last time you accepted a compliment?

And I mean honest-to-goodness, wholehearted, modesty-exempt acceptance?

Was it yesterday?

Was it a few weeks ago?

Was it just now, when I told you you were charming and smart and a wonderful human being who has somehow found this hideaway blog of mine?

(And if it was that last one–good on you!)

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Recently I watched this video about the power of accepting compliments. I am a complete sucker for Making Life Meaningful clips. In the video, these social science-y folks do an experiment where couples split up and the one with lower self-esteem gets complimented–genuine compliments, mind you–by their partner.

And here’s the best part: the first person has to accept the compliment with only the words, “thank you.”

The idea behind this experiment is that accepting genuine compliments is a) hard for people who tend to have lower self-esteem, and b) great for boosting self-confidence, since the act of acceptance allows us to reflect on ourselves positively.Healthy Sticky Fudgy Brownies 17--080214 (GF, Dairy-Free)

Now, I can honestly tell you that I suck at accepting compliments. My ability to accept them is inversely proportional to the amount of chocolate I have consumed on any given day, so if you have the godforsaken misfortune to catch me on a day sans Chocolat, be prepared to have your compliments shot down to the point of awkward embarrassment. I usually enter any conversation armed with an arsenal of “no’s,” “it’s really not’s,” and “no seriously, it’s nothing’s.”

It’s not Compliment Fishing.… Read more

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Hot Fudge Chocolate Brownie with a Killer Choco Frosting (V, GF, Raw, No Added Sugar)–And the Importance of Meeting Strangers

My earliest memory of talking to a stranger goes back to Ala at age 6, standing in a ballet class, chatting happily and obliviously in her pink tutu to one of the nice ladies sitting near the side of the room.

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“My mom told me not to talk to strangers,” I confidentially informed the lady, whom I remember now as friendly-faced and quite tall. “I’m Ala,” I continued, holding out my hand and solemnly shaking her, which was proffered with a smile. Then I added, just in case she didn’t understand, “Now we aren’t strangers anymore.”

And then I went right on chatting.

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My mom still laughs about this incident now, but in many ways it foreshadowed my later affinity for striking up random conversations  in the most unexpected places. Some of my closest friends or most interesting memories today have emerged from chance encounters of the Love Actually sort: getting a ride with another grad student to a surprise banquet, sitting down at a conference table with a Disney Imagineer, chatting with the night shuttle officer on my way back from school, catching public transportation and whiling away the time with surprisingly fun conversation.

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Though I don’t consider myself particularly confident (blog name, anyone?), I still love love love to meet random people. One of my best grad school friends is a bright, energetic gal I met in a Zumba class my first year: we spent the entire quarter beaming at each other in the mirror as we grooved and moved and body rolled with as much grace as flopping fish–and when we both arrived on the “last day of class” only to realize that the last day had been last week, we ended up jamming to our own tunes by setting up an improv class with her friends. Anytime anyone asks us how we met, we turn and positively grin at each other before launching into one of our favorite stories.… Read more

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Two-Toned Red Velvet & Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

As I’ve grown older and the weary years have coated my hunched back like a film of unwanted snail slime, I’ve come to the wary conclusion that there are two sides of me: the one that you know, and the one that you wouldn’t want to know for all the holy flying bats in the world–though what you would want to do with a colony of holy flying bats, I haven’t the faintest idea. You tell me.

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Of course, unless you’re my mom and have witnessed the stormy tantrums I still throw all the time used to throw as a kid in the Polly Pocket aisle of Toys R Us, I’m pretty much an “As Seen in Stores” kind of girl. Peppy, extroverted, painfully enthusiastic at times, and totally predictable.

But at rare little moments of extreme environmental stress or unceasing irritation, my trigger–like any normal human being’s–will trip. And boy, you don’t want to be the person standing in front of it when it does. If you’re the one who tripped it up, all the bleaker for you. My judging glare is not something you want to experience from the receiving end. Nor is my adult, I-will-smack-you hands-on-hips gesture when I appear, glowering, in your doorway.

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On the latest battlefront, my neighbors have been demons from the darkest depths of Dante’s nine circles of hell. Zac Efron (who, by the way, visited us for the premiere of Neighbors last month) has got nothing on my. Freakin’. Neighbors.

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