It’s a rainy day here in south Florida. When you think of Florida in the summer, you just picture sunshine and palm trees right? Wrong. It rains. It rains pretty much every day at 3pm, which you do end up thankful for because it does cool off the raging heat a bit. But then right after the rain, the man eating mosquitos come out to play. Anyways, rant on Florida weather is over. When it rains, I instantly want to cook. Cook everything, the entire kitchen. I don’t know what it is, I guess cooking is just relaxing for me, and then you add the peaceful sound of a Florida thunderstorm to it, and it’s the perfect combo. So I woke up instantly thinking of what I could whip up in the kitchen.
I decided on making some chicken salad for the weekend and some chocolate bars. Then I thought of my favorite guilty pleasures. Orange chocolate chunk cupcakes. I’ve been making these forever, and they still stand as my favorite cake and trust me, I’ve had a lot of cake. Anything that is chocolate and orange I am drawn to like a magnet. The combination is perfect. The base of these little gems is a buttermilk cake that is studded with chocolate chunks and orange zest. While they are cooking, you put some freshly squeezed OJ and sugar in a pan and boil until the sugar has dissolved. Right when the cupcakes come out of the oven, I poke some holes in the top, and I put several spoonfuls of the simple syrup over the top of the hot cupcakes. This guarantees a delicious, moist (gah do I hate that word), flavorful cake. Finally, once the cakes have cooled, comes the big finale. I top these little guys with chocolate ganache. Nothing makes me happier than a chocolate ganache. Nothing. It is the chocolatiest, yummiest, fudgiest thing ever. Yes, those are are technical chef terms in case you were wondering. Ganache sounds intimidating and scary, but it’s so incredibly easy. You literally just melt chocolate chips, heavy whipping cream and a little bit of fresh coffee grounds and bam. Oh, my Ganache. You want to spoon this deliciousness over the cakes fairly quickly as it will start to harden. I love to eat one of these while they are still warm because, well I have no self-control. But I love them equally as much after they have been in the fridge overnight. The chocolate chips harden, and orange flavored syrup has completely filled the cake. Do yourself a favor and make these. Now.
After I stuffed my face in chocolate, I decided I should make something on the healthy side. Life’s a balance, right? I made a gigantic batch of chicken salad. Now everyone has their own version of chicken salad. Some have raisins, some have apples, and some even like to ruin it with boiled eggs. My momma made her chicken salad with grapes and celery, so I make my chicken salad with grapes and celery. I did cheat and bought a rotisserie chicken from Publix. I love how the chicken shreds off of those so I did it. I cheated. Whatever. So I started by getting all of the meat off and shredded it into small pieces in a large bowl. I then added my grapes which I cut in half and a few chopped up celery stalks. Another thing I love to add is slivered almonds. It gives a great crunch, and I love the flavor. Then I add all of my wet ingredients. Normally chicken salad is dripping in mayonnaise, which don’t get me wrong, is a beautiful thing, but I’m trying to lighten it up here. So I add only about a half of a cup of mayo and then about a full cup of Greek yogurt. Not only is the flavor pretty much the same, but it adds a ton of extra protein and way less calories. Make sure you get plain yogurt for this, no vanilla flavoring in your chicken salad. I also added a bit of whole grain mustard and a little salt and pepper. Boom. Chicken salad for days. I eat it on a bed of lettuce, a sandwich, wheat thins, or just out of the container with a spoon. Don’t judge me.
Last but not least I made my chocolate bars. Might as well finish off a day of cooking with chocolate right? Inner fat kid cant help myself. I’ve been making these the last few weeks, and they are purely addicting. I think I’ve finally made my boyfriend a chocoholic with these which makes me feel like less of a fattie when someone else is joining in my addiction. I’m embarrassed to tell you how I make these because they are so simple. Saying you make homemade chocolate bars sounds so complicated. However… you’re going to start by grabbing a bag of chocolate chips and melt them. And honestly, that’s the extent of it. I’ve been using semi sweet but you can use any kind of chocolate. I do a whole bag and melt it at 30 sec intervals until it’s all delicious and melted. While it’s melting a line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. When it’s melted, I add a couple of tablespoons of coffee grounds. Coffee brings out the natural flavor in chocolate, and the added caffeine is a bonus. Now I just pour a giant puddle of melted coffee chocolate in the middle of the cookie sheet and spread it out into an even layer. Quickly you want to add your toppings before the chocolate starts the harden. I’ve been doing toasted almonds and dried fruit. I love dried cranberries or cherries. But get creative here. Pistachios would be delicious, peanuts, walnuts really anything you like can go on top. I always finish it off with a sprinkle of sea salt. Then just put it in the fridge. It doesn’t take long to harden then I just roughly break it up into pieces and store it in an airtight container. It awesome to have in the fridge when you just need a piece (or two) of something sweet.
So I guess I’ll be living off of chocolate and chicken salad for the weekend. Sounds like an amazing weekend to me.
Chocolate Bars: (clean)
12 oz of your favorite chocolate (I used semi sweet)
1 tbsp coffee grounds
1 cup of assorted toppings (I used dried cranberries and almonds)
Sea salt (optional)
Melt chocolate in a large bowl in 30-second intervals. While the chocolate is melting, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. When the chocolate is completely melted, add the coffee and stir to combine. Pour melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and take a knife to spread it into an even layer. Quickly add your toppings and lightly press them into the chocolate, then finish with a little sprinkle of sea salt. Let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you can have self-control! Once set, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
Chicken salad: (clean)
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
3/4 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup grapes, cut in half
1/2 slivered almonds
1/2 plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 grainy mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by shredding your chicken and chopping your add ins. Combine first 4 ingredients and then mix your wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add the wet ingredients to your chicken mixture. Sometimes you’ll want a little more mustard or a little more mayo; everyone has a preference here just find the flavor and consistency you like best!
Chocolate Orange Cakes: (dirty)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 cup grated orange zest (2 large oranges)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup good semisweet chocolate chunks
For the syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
For the ganache:
4 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 6 giant muffin tin pan with nonstick spray. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the orange zest. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 1 tablespoon flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pan, smooth the tops, and bake for 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the molds on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pans, put them on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cakes.