Salted Almond Joy Bark

With Christmas and the New Year on the horizon, I have two goals for today:

1. Clean out my closet/dresser of unwanted garments

I have too much stuff.  I have clothing I don’t wear and even more that doesn’t fit.  One of the fantastic things about lifting weights is that my body shrank.  It’s great! But it means that I don’t own any pants that fit me.  So I want to clear out the stuff that doesn’t fit me any more, because there’s no room in my shoebox of an apartment for clothing that is too big or old.
2. Bake Christmas Cookies for gifts

I love baking and Christmas is the perfect time to bake treats and give them away.  So today and tomorrow will consist of Christmas baking.  I had my recipes all planned out, but then yesterday when I arrived to Crossfit, Allison told me she had something for me.  She handed me a lovely tin filled with homemade salted chocolate coconut almond bark.

At this point it was nearly 6am and not an appropriate time to eat chocolate.  So I put it in my car, got my butt kicked during the WOD and went to work.  I have this rule during the holidays (since there are so many treats floating around) that I’m allowed to have a sweet treat AFTER lunch.

This means waiting til I have a nutritious (or semi-nutritious because yesterday my boss took us to Umami Burger for lunch and that’s clearly NOT nutritious) before enjoying goodies and also cutting down on how much I eat.  I have a hard time stopping once I start, so I found it’s better for me to just start later.  But anyway…

So I waited until after lunch and had a piece of Allison’s delicious bark.

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It was awesome.  Let me just tell you, I gave some to co-workers and to Jesse, but the reality is I ate it mostly myself.  Today, as of 2pm… the bark is gone.  As in, I finished it all after lunch today.

Because this bark was so amazing I wanted to try to make it on my own and give it to my loved ones.  I’ve decided to rename it Salted Almond Joy Bark, because that’s sort of what it reminded me of.

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

from Sweet Potato Bites

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips  (or chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup Roasted Coconut Chips*
Coarse Sea Salt

First, prepare your pan by lining a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Next, pour chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.

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Microwave 30 seconds then stir.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir, repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. You can also do this in a pan or double boiler, but I’ll be honest, the microwave is a million times easier.  It’s also idiot-proof.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my chocolate seize when using a double boiler, because water in chocolate (steam included!) might cause it to seize.

Because of this, I take the easy route and use the microwave.  Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, pour about 3/4 of the chocolate into the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using a spatula, smooth until it’s a tiny bit thick (if you like your bark thicker, leave it thicker, if you want it thinner, spread it more).  It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with stuff anyway…

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Sprinkle chocolate with coconut and almonds.  Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle it overs the coconut and almonds.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (be generous! That’s seriously the best part!) and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

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Once the chocolate is completely hardened (it took about an hour for me, if not it’ll start to melt when you touch it), break the bark into pieces.

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Store in an air tight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

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*I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips, but if there’s no Trader Joe’s near you, you can just use toasted coconut.

This stuff was seriously amazing.  The salt really takes this from normal tasty chocolate bark to something out of this world.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  I’m really excited to share this with others along with Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Mint Cookies and maybe another cookie or two.  Any suggestions?

Are you giving Christmas Cookies this season?  If so, what are your top cookies or treats to gift?

Mocha Protein Cupcakes

Yesterday, I took Jesse to the airport.  He’s off to New York for almost 3 weeks for a training course.  I hate to be that girl, but I miss him already.  So in the meantime, I plan on baking a lot.  Because baking makes the world a little bit better.

After I did my search for the best protein powder, Garden of Life sent me some more of their flavors to try: Garden of Life RAW Protein Marley Coffee and Raw Fit.

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I automatically fell in love with the Raw Fit, because it kept me so full for so long, but I had a hard time with the Marley Coffee flavor.

Given that I’m a coffee fiend, I thought I would love the coffee flavor, but I’m going to be honest, I didn’t love the flavor on its own.  So instead of devouring the Marley Coffee flavor like I did the Raw Fit in my usual breakfast smoothies, I’ve been trying to find other delicious ways to use the Marley Coffee Protein and here’s my most recent creation.

mochaproteincupcakestextIt’s no secret I have a ridiculous sweet-tooth, it’s also no secret that I generally try to balance it out with healthy eats.  So I decided to try to combine my love of sweets with a dose of healthiness.  These cupcakes don’t contain any butter or refined sugar and each one has 7g of protein and only 125 calories.  Drizzled with a bit of almond butter, they’re the perfect healthy-ish treat.

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Mocha Protein Cupcakes

1 medium banana, mashed
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup Garden of Life Marley Coffee Raw Protein
1/2 cup almond meal1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat over to 350F.

Mix together mashed banana, almond butter, maple syrup, egg and almond milk.  Add cocoa powder, protein power, almond meal, baking soda, baking power and salt.  Stir to combine.  Pour batter into 11-12 lined cupcake pan.  I got 11 cupcakes out of this.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

mochaproteincupcakes2You can eat them plain, top them with whipped cream or drizzle them with almond butter.  What I really loved about these cupcakes, other than the awesome nutrition stats:

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Was the texture.  They’re light and crumbly like a good cupcake should be.  The coffee flavor isn’t ultra strong, honestly these taste more like great chocolate cupcakes.  After all, it’s pretty common to add coffee to chocolate baked goods for flavor.  This protein added that perfect hint of coffee flavor that makes chocolate baked good extra delicious.

mochaproteincupcakes3So if you’re looking for a healthy cupcake, this is the one for you.  Be sure to check back later this week, I have some great things planned for you all!

 

**Note: Garden of Life provided me with the Raw Fit and Marley Coffee RAW Protein, but the opinions are my own.

Healthy Chocolate Smoothie

I love dessert, and I love feeding people dessert almost as much (or maybe even more) than I like eating it myself.  But some days,  I have a major guilt trip.  Today is one of those days.  I know sugar is terrible for your health.  I shouldn’t eat so much of it, and sometimes I feel guilty that I feed my loved ones baked goods so often.

I generally think I’m a pretty health-conscious person,  but then I turn around and make things like this:

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I know dessert makes me happy, but I also know I shouldn’t be eating it all the time so I give it away.  So pretty much I’m a jerk, a jerk that pawns off things that are too unhealthy for her to eat onto other people.  And when jerks feel guilty, they turn to fruits and vegetables.

I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m about 293048292 years late to the party and finally watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and this article I read in National Geographic about Sugar.  That documentary didn’t convince me that I need to start juicing, but it did remind me that fruits and vegetables are always a good idea. The sugar article just reinforced my original idea that I need to eat less sugar. I’m not a nutritionist, but it seems like juices are lacking fiber and all the healthy things you get from the skins of fruits and vegetables. No? So instead of juice, I’m sticking to smoothies and less sugar.

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I’ve been having green smoothies for years.  My normal go-to combination was strawberry, banana, spinach.  But I decided to try a new combo to help me get past my enormous cravings for big handfuls of chocolate chips in the evenings.  It’s a bad habit.  So let’s replace it with something better:

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Healthy Chocolate-y Smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks (I eye ball it)
1-2 cup frozen spinach (I really just grab a huge handful and shove it in the blender)
1 date, pitted
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or more if you want it more chocolate-y)
1 cup ice
1/2-1 cup water or almond milk (this might vary)

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  In my Vitamix, I don’t need that much water and I can get it to be pretty thick.

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I actually eat it with a spoon!  Note: This makes one large smoothie for one person.

The key here is really the cocoa powder.

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You get the chocolate-y flavor without all the sugar.  The sweetness here comes from fruit, particularly the date.

It’s not like eating a Wendy’s frosty. Let’s be clear.  It’s not.  But it’s pretty darn tasty and it definitely helps me get my chocolate fix in a much healthier way.

So what do you think?  Is it bad to feed your friends and family unhealthy foods?  Should I (or you) feel guilty about it?

Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars

I somehow had the bright idea of joining the company softball team. If you knew me in real life, you’d be surprised that I would make such a choice. I’m not really a “team sports” kind of girl.  Not because I don’t like exercise.  No no.  I love Crossfit.  Running is fun.  Spinning is amazing.

At first you might think, oh so you’re a solo rider.  Well not really.  What softball has that running, Crossfit and spinning don’t is that softball involves a hard object flying at your face.  I’m not good at that.  You see, I’m what we like to call “accident-prone.”

The truth is, if there’s an opportunity to get hurt, chances are I will.   I’m set to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in November and my sister is already researching altitude sickeness and ways to prevent it.  She’s not even going on the trip with me and she knows it’ll be an issue for me.

In fact, the last time I tried to play a team sport was a summer softball league the summer before 9th grade.  I broke my finger mid way through the summer.  Lesson learned.

But now I’m older, and conquering fears and trying new (ish) things is totally my thing.  So why not.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, let’s talk about these guys.

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I know you’re drooling because any mention of the word “snickerdoodle” makes babies smile and men squeal in joy.

Ok I can’t take credit for these.  I got this recipe from my favorite cookie cookbook given to me by my friend Rhoda (who also published an awesome cookbook!).

I want everyone to buy this book because I think it’s so awesome.  What I didn’t think was awesome was the name of the recipe.  Buttermilk Cinnamon Bars.  Boring.  So since I made some changes (like adding chocolate chips, among a few other changes, I decided to rename these to more accurately describe the taste.

Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars

Adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F.   In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and butter.  Using your fingers, combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   Take two cups of that mixture and combine it with coconut and chocolate chips.

Press into a 9×13 baking dish lined with parchment paper.   With the remaining sugar/flour/butter mixture, add egg, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, buttermilk and vanilla.  Blend together.  Pour mixture oven base and bake for about 45 minutes, or until fully cooked in the center.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  (I let it sit out overnight)  Once cooled, remove bars from pan by lifting parchment paper.  Cut bars into about 40 squares (or fewer large pieces…).

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I promise these will be a hit.  They’re like snickerdoodles and chocolate chip coconut cookies on a date, because that makes sense.

Either way, enjoy them, pin them and wish me luck on this softball endeavor.

How are you at team sports?  Play any?  Tell me!

P.S. Have you entered the Peanut Butter & Co Giveaway?  You can earn entries daily!  Get to it here: http://bit.ly/147k7k8

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

What’s your go-to blog for recipes?  We all have them, because these days… it’s so much easier to Google than to search through an array of cookbooks.

Me and half of America have Smitten Kitchen as our go-to blog for recipes.  I haven’t made too many things, because most of the time I like inventing things but I’ve made a few and every one is great.

This past week I was dogsitting…

and had a massive zucchini from the garden to use.  First I made an zucchini mozzarella bake, which I will tell you about soon, but there I still had about 1/3 of the zucchini left.  I’m telling you this thing was the size of a small animal (probably roughly the size of the two pugs above). I wish I had taken a picture of it.

So with 1/3 of an enormous zucchini sitting on the counter as two pugs stared at me, naturally, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for direction.  Now, I have to tell you… I’m a terrible person.  I never actually read her blog posts.  I only ever look at the pictures and recipes.   Does anyone else do that?

We all have different motivations for following blogs, right? For me, Smitten Kitchen is all about pictures and recipes.

So back to Zucchini.  I made zucchini bread, because I was feeling traditional.

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I usually never do this, but I actually followed this recipe pretty much to the T (but omited the nuts and added chocolate chips).  I chose to add chocolate chips because for some reason chocolate and zucchini sounds like a natural combination.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

from Smitten Kitchen

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

*Note: I didn’t measure the zucchini so I actually think I added more like 3 cups

Line two loaf pans with parchment paper.  Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a bowl, beat together eggs, oil and sugar.  Once combined, add zucchini and vanilla extract.  Stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips.  Stir until just combined.  Pour batter into two loaf pans.

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Bake about an hour (mine took about an hour and 10 minutes, remember all ovens are different).

Allow to cool completely.  Then remove from pan (parchment paper makes it super easy to pull out of the pan).  Slice and serve.zucchinibread3

I took these two loaves to work and they were gone in a day.  That’s probably because I ate half of it on my own.  It was pretty delicious. The loaves are sort of dense, but super moist, which is always appreciated.

Normally I hate chocolate chips in quick breads, but this was fantastic.  If you ever put chocolate chips in my banana bread or pancakes, we won’t be friends anymore, but in zucchini bread… bring it on!

So there you have it.  Sometimes you need a go-to blog for a recipe.

What’s your go-to blog for recipes?  Are there any blogs you read solely for pictures and recipes?

Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

When a friend comes to visit from across the country, they deserve a treat.  When a friend says she wants a dessert with bacon, you oblige and make these:

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My friend Liz loves bacon more than anyone I know.  We have that bond of former roommates so I know the lady loves meat  (no pun intended, get your mind out of the gutter).

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Lucky for her, bacon in dessert is totally having a moment, or is that just me?  If you haven’t had bacon in a dessert yet, you need to try it asap.  Start with these cookies…

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Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 slices of bacon, fat reserved
1/4 cup softened butter
*
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted PB)
1 cup chocolate chips

In a pan, fry bacon over medium heat until very crispy.  Reserve fat and allow to cool completely.  Chop bacon and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Beat together butter, peanut butter and bacon fat (*note if you don’t want to use bacon fat, you can just use 1/2 cup of butter and omit the bacon fat).  Add sugar and beat for an additional minute or two.  Add egg and beat for an additional minute.  Add flour and baking soda (and salt if using) and beat until almost combined.  Lastly, fold in chopped bacon and chocolate chips.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls, place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes or until golden on the edges.  Allow to cool completely and serve!  Makes about 2 dozen cookies (or maybe more… I wouldn’t know because I ate a ton of the cookie dough).

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If your friend loves bacon but isn’t a fan of peanut butter… not to worry, I have a solution for you:

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Bacon Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not into cookies (we won’t talk about how blasphemous that is…) but feeling the need to put bacon in a dessert?  How about this Chocolate Pudding with Peanut Butter Mousse and Maple Candied Bacon?

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Equally delicious and bacon-y.

How do you feel about bacon in desserts? Do you love it? Hate it? Is it over-rated? Never tried it?  Tell me!

Pies before Paleo

This weekend consisted of lots of eating.  I’m definitely ready to start the paleo challenge tomorrow.  I feel like my body needs a cleanse.

Friday night, as I had mentioned, I went to Newport Landing for OC Restaurant Week.

I had Manhattan Clam Chowder, Potato Wrapped Salmon, and Molten Chocolate Cake.  Tasty!

Then Saturday night, there was another birthday dinner at an Argentine restaurant in San Diego called Puerto La Boca.  Jesse and I headed down to San Diego a bit early.  We sat at the bar and had a drink ($3 wine!) while we waited for everyone to arrive.

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By the time dinner happened (about 9pm?), we were starving.  Empanadas, Bread with Chimichurri, Meat, Salad, French Fries.  All tasty (and garlic-y like woah).

Then today, a co-worker is having an engagement party.  I offered to bring pies.

He requested Avocado Pie (because he loved it last time)

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A Banana Cream Pie using this recipe from Epicurious.

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And Chocolate Mousse  (I’m totally NOT happy with how this one looks.  Womp.  But hopefully it will taste awesome!)

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This is by no means a normal weekend, so I definitely feel ready to eat normal food.

How about you?  Ready for the Paleo Challenge?

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I’m totally pumped!  I keep talking about it.  I think my boyfriend is already annoyed.

Pretty soon I’ll turn into one of those people…


 

“Is this Paleo?”

Banana Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 great things inspired this blog post.  They both start with a B.   The first is Bacon.

That word inspires so many people to eat copious amounts of things.  I feel like Bacon is particularly fitting today, as it’s Super Bowl Sunday.  I would be a big fat liar if I told you I wasn’t excited for today, but I’ll be honest.  I’m more excited for the food than for the game, and only marginally more excited for Beyonce (that’s the second B…).

She’s my lady, and I love her.  Probably as much as most people like bacon.

So my contribution to Super Bowl Sunday (aka this…

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are these cookies

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Banana Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
6 slices of bacon, cooked and fat reserved*
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
 2 cup banana chips, roughly chopped

Cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy.  Place on to a paper towel and allow to cool.  Once cooled, chop and set aside.  Reserve 1/4 cup of bacon fat.

Cream together butter, 1/4 cup bacon fat, and sugars.  Add each egg, beating about 1 minute after each.  Add flour and baking soda, beat until almost combined.   Fold in bacon, banana chips and chocolate chips.  Chill dough in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 350F.

Form dough into walnut sized balls, and place on parchment paper-lined baking pan.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown (this varies on the size of your cookies and your oven).  Allow to cool completely and serve.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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*Note: if you don’t want to use bacon fat, omit bacon fat and use 3/4 cup of butter instead of 1/2 cup.

So make sure you get on this quick.  You’ve got a few hours until Beyonce (and the Super Bowl).  Run and get some bacon then make these cookies!

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These should probably be called Chocolate Crack Cookies.

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They’re that good. If I were Santa Claus, I would totally want these waiting for me with a huge glass of milk. I don’t even like milk, but I’d take it with these cookies.

The first time I made these was in grad school in 2009 with my friend Rhoda. We made a bunch of different cookies to give to people for the holidays. This was one of them and I remember it being amazing.

So do Santa, your neighbor, your boyfriend, your mom, whoever a favor and make them these cookies.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
About 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Melt chocolate in the microwave (30 seconds at a time, stirring in between blast session until completely melted). Drizzle oil into chocolate while stirring. Once combined, add sugar and mix in. Beat in 2 eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt until just combined. Don’t over-mix. Chill dough in the freezer for about an hour or in the fridge for a few hours.

Once your dough has chilled, pre-heat oven to 350F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and place powdered sugar in a bowl.

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Form dough into walnut sized balls (I made mine a little bigger that than because I’m terrible at calculating size). Roll in powdered sugar and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. This should make about 24-30 cookies (the recipe says 40, but obviously I have a heavy hand in my cookie forming…)choc crinkle cookies2

Bake 10 minutes. They might look undercooked but that’s okay. Remember my rule about undercooked chocolate things… they’re delicious. Trust me.

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Allow to cool complete and serve with a glass of milk… and a side of carrots and celery for the reindeer… or to balance out the sugar, whatever you want to believe.