Girls’ Night at The Chocolate Lovers’ Club

I have three close girlfriends that I have been friends with since I met them when I came to their school in 5th grade. The three of them have know each other even longer.  They are the best!  We don’t see each other or talk as often as we would like, but every time we are together, we pick up right where we left off, nobody gets upset if you have dropped off the earth for a month or four two.  The conversation flows, often along with the adult beverages 😉  It is too much fun.

One day I got an email from Amy that she saw a Groupon for a four-course dinner and chocolate tasting at The Chocolate Lovers’ Club in Princeton, NJ.  We knew we had to go, and hoped we could get Tracy and Bethie on board.  And the hubbies/grandmas to watch the little ones.  I mean, what could be better than a Girls’ Night…  with food…  and wine…  and CHOCOLATE!

Unfortunately Tracy couldn’t make it, but Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan, was happy to join us.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Club is a cute little shop in the Princeton Forrestal Village.  They sell their handmade, gourmet chocolates, offer chocolate classes, have dinners and tastings, host parties and showers, and more.

We had such a great time!  Truthfully, I think there are all couples there, other than us, so it definitely would be a unique date night with your significant other, too.  But definitely consider it for a night with the girls, too.  As we learned, it has been proven that women derive significantly more pleasure from chocolate than men do.  It really was a lot of fun!  The food was tasty, the chocolate was divine, and we even learned a lot of interesting chocolate trivia.  Plus, for my own benefit, I got some ideas for some new recipe creations.  So I had to tell you about the evening.  I will apologize in advance that these pictures are not the best display of my lack of photography skills.  But I was too busy trying to catch up with the girls to take stunning photos.  I’m just not good enough yet to get it perfect on the first or second try.

The theme when we attended was A Taste of Hawaii, so we were greeted with leis and a Pineapple Ginger Ale punch, which was so light and refreshing.

Pineapple Ginger Ale Punch

We started with a salad, where we had our first taste of chocolate in the form of cacao nibs crushed and sprinkled over a salad of mixed greens, pineapple, red onion and grated cheddar.  This is definitely a great idea for a summery salad, and, as we learned, cacao nibs are a superfood, high in antioxidants.

Pineapple Cacao Nib Salad

This was followed by a little appetizer of cream cheese on crackers with some mango jelly.  I love the combination of sweet and salty, so this would definitely be a yummy, quick party snack.

Mango Jelly and Cream Cheese on Crackers

Next was the main course, which was served small plates style.  We were free to take a few samples, and then return to the buffet as often as we liked.  I defintely had seconds of the creamy coconut shrimp rice, the savory pork patties, and the sweet and tasty sweet potato and banana casserole.  A pineapple chicken kabob and some steamed green beans rounded out the meal.

Chocolate Dinner Main Course

Then we had the pleasure of tasting some wonderful chocolates from craft producers in Hawaii who make their chocolate in small batches.  The dark chocolate was 60% cocoa, not milk or other added ingredients – just pure chocolate and sugar.  The slight bitterness to the chocolate was such a wonderful contrast to the Pineapple Ginger Ale punch.  The white chocolate was not the artificial tasting white chocolate that you see lining the aisles right now in the form of “chocolate” bunnies.  This was real cocoa butter with sugar, and it was so smooth and creamy, and provided just the right amount of sweetness to some mango iced black tea.

And of course you can’t go to a chocolate dinner without finishing up with dessert.  And we had two – both of which were delicious and simple enough to do at home.  In fact, I am thinking of turning both of these ideas into layer cakes.  I bet they would be fabulous!

The first was a Chocolate Kona Coffee Cake, which consisted of a simple sponge cake, drizzled with chocolate ganache made from the amazing Hawaiian chocolate and coconut milk instead of cream.  This was then sprinkled with crushed Kona coffee beans, lemon zest, and sea salt.  I don’t even really like coffee, but this was such an incredible contrast of flavors that somehow all worked together beautifully.

Chocolate Kona Coffee Cake

Then we finished simply with pineapple chunks drizzled with a white chocolate ganache, also made with coconut milk, macadamia nuts, and sea salt.  Delicious!

Pineapple with white chocolate ganache and macadamia nuts

Well, since The Hubby spent the night at home with The Bug, I thought he deserved a few treats, too.  And I got The Bug a white chocolate bunny for his Easter basket.  I might have also bought some for myself.

Bag of chocolates

We sampled the caramel truffles and sangria truffles, which were smooth and creamy.  The sangria truffle was so unique, with that delicious combination of chocolate and orange.  And we tried the dark chocolate bark with cacao nibs, and this was so well-balanced – bitter and sweet, creamy and crunchy.

Sangria truffle, caramel truffle, and dark chocolate cacao nib bark

Oh, and by the way, my choice of Cupcake Red Velvet wine was a perfect selection!

By being an email follower, I was also lucky enough to win a free ticket to a chocolate tasting.  So I will be heading back to sample some more of their wonderful treats at the end of April.  I am bringing The Hubby this time, though.  I love Girls’ Nights, but I also love Date Nights, too, and I think he will love it as much as I did.

So if you are in the area, stop in and check out their chocolates, try some drinks or desserts, or sign up for one of their fun Supper Club Nights!

Enjoy!

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Friday Fun! March 16, 2012

Happy Friday again everyone!  I’m back for another edition of Friday Fun.  I’ll tell you what’s not so fun is that I am starting to write this at 2:50am.  Why, you ask?  Well, for some reason I m having a bout of insomnia tonight, and just as I was starting to wind down, The Bug decided to have a bit of a crying fit.  Well, he settled down, sort of, but now I can’t wind myself back down.  I’m sure staring at the glow of the computer screen is going to do wonders for helping to get me off to dreamland, but c’est la vie.  Gotta use the time somehow, especially since I’ll probably crash when The Bug goes down for his nap tomorrow, umm, I mean later today.  I’m sure I won’t finish this before I try to go to sleep, but at least I’ll get a start.

Last weekend, The Hubby and I got a date night, which was wonderful.  I’m actually hoping to do a little post about it, because we had yet another fabulous meal at The Frog & The Peach, in New Brunswick, NJ.  Every one in a while, we like to go out to somewhere REALLY good.  A lot of the time we try new places, but when we want a good meal with good service and a good atmosphere, without the wildcard aspect of trying a new place, we go to The Frog.

This weekend I am so excited for a Girls’ Night on Saturday with two good friends, Amy and Bethie, and Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan.  Of course this has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but we bought a Groupon for a Four-Course Chocolate Supper Club dinner at the Chocolate Lovers Club in Princeton, “celebrating cuisine from chocolate-producing countries,” and supposedly includes virgin choctails, three appetizers, four tasting-size entrees, dessert, a cooking demo, and a chocolate tasting.  We will be experiencing A Taste of Hawaii.  OMG!!!!  I also think I will be picking up a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet to bring along, because it sounds like the perfect pairing to me.

And Sunday I’ll be heading to a birthday party for The Half-Baked Housewife‘s little guy.  She has a huge family and tons of friends, so parties at her house are always such happy chaos.

OK, I think I can go to sleep now.

Apple cheddar and almond salad with balsamic maple dijon vinaigretteSo I am back, and having a salad for lunch inspired The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Apple Pecan Spring Greens with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.  I only had romaine and cheddar, though I would much prefer spring greens and blue cheese.  Also, I used almonds instead of pecans, and left out the raw onion (yuck!).  Plus I fudged the dressing a little because I was only making a little for myself, and I used balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, because I LOVE balsamic.  I also realized I forgot the dried cranberries.  Bummer!  But it was so tasty!

This week I also received several blogger awards from some of my new bloggie friends.  I am so honored, but it has been a busy week with attempting, unsuccessfully, to potty train The Bug, getting my Improv Cooking Challenge post completed, and pulling together my package for my Foodie Penpal, Jessica, that I haven’t had a chance to share the love.  So since the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys are always on Sundays, I am thinking I will be doing a Sunday Awards Show post, so that I can highlight the lovely ladies who nominated me, and tell you all about some other awesome bloggers.

The Bug Planting SeedsThe Bug and I planted herbs this week from Growums.  Let’s see if my Black Thumb of Death rears its ugly head again.  Oh, and my random adorable Bug tidbit of the week is that when you ask him where something is, he points, and says “Right right there.”  Oh, and on the way home from pre-school the other day, he fell asleep in the car.  Usually he asks to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar when we get home, but since he was out cold, I just carried him up to his bed.  As I was laying down, he goes, “Hungry Caterpilaaaaa..zzzzzzzzzz” as he fell back to sleep.  So cute!  And one more thing – apparently at pre-school he is counting EVERYTHING.  He has no interest in letters, but he is all over the numbers.  Clearly the offspring of two engineers.

At Shop Rite I picked up a 5 lb box of Whole Wheat Matzoh.  I’m not Jewish and I have a wheat allergy, so don’t eat too many things like that.  But I thought I might be able to come up with some creative recipes.  And it was free.  And bonus, the only ingredients are whole wheat flour and water, so it’ll make a great whole grain, sugar/salt/preservative-free snack for The Bug.  Any other ideas what I can do with it?

The Bug and his car

Some things I came across this week:

  • In the early stages of tonight’s insomnia, I found this article about food bloggers posting recipes using “real food” versus packaged items and junk food to create visually appealing, drool-inducing recipes that don’t do wonders for the health of the nation.  I am all about balance and moderation.  So while I do try to focus on wholesome, nutritious, “real” food, I do think there is room in life for a little fun, like these Lucky Charms Cupcakes.  That being said, though, so far I think the most popular recipe on my blog is my Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Sausage Tomato Cream Sauce.
  • The Lean Green Bean put together a list of 60 Blogs You Should Be Reading.  There are a lot on there that I already read, and some that I have to add to my list.
  • Every year for Christmas, I make my dad Snickerdoodles.  He even says I now make them better than my grandma used to.  And The Hubby loves molasses gingersnaps.  These Snickercrinkles are like a combo of the two – I have to try them!
  • Ann at Sumptuous Spoonfuls had me hooked with this Double Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread.  I mean, it has Nutella, and it is chock full of healthy things like flax, whole wheat flour, yogurt and applesauce.
  • Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Frosting and Snickers Cake – ’nuff said!
  • OK, I am not all about dessert.  I am always looking for some new vegetarian ideas for Meatless Mondays and Lent Fridays.  This week I found BBQ Chickpea Burgers and Black Bean Spaghetti Stir Fry.  I am very interested to try black bean pasta after my first venture into gluten-free pasta with brown rice spaghetti last week.  And I thing this Springtime Jasmine Rice Salad sounds amazing, with two of my favorites – asparagus and mushrooms – but I think I may have to add shrimp or chicken for The Hubby to consider it a meal.
  • How cute are these?!?!

I could go on, but I have towels to fold.  Ugh!

Remember, f you like what you see here, I’d love for you to subscribe to updates by email, “Like” me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  And tell your friends…

And here is the weekly question:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal and “Gateway Foods”

So I had planned a completely different post to go up today – a nice, healthy snack/breakfast for you or your kids, no measuring involved.  Well, that will go up tomorrow.  I just had to share what I had for breakfast today.  If you have been following the March Foodie Photo a Day on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, started by The Purple Carrot, then you may have already seen a preview.  But here it is in all of it’s chocolaty, nutty goodness.

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal, garnished

My new bloggie friend, Nescett, at Bananaoats eats oatmeal with bananas cooked into it pretty much everyday (hence, the name of her blog).  Before even finding her blog, I tried this, just with bananas in plain oatmeal.  I was not a fan.  Typically I like my oatmeal plain, cooked with a little milk, a pinch of salt, and some sort of sweetener – used to be Splenda, but I am trying to get away from artificial sweeteners, so now it is usually agave nectar.  But I also do like occasionally treating myself to a nice chocolaty breakfast by stirring in some cocoa powder.  But then yesterday I saw this Nutella Banana Oatmeal.  Sumptuous Spoonfuls has been inspiring a few of my meals lately, and when I saw this, I knew I had to try it.

The problem.  No, it wasn’t that I don’t have Nutella.  It’s that Nutella is like a gateway drug for my.  I open the jar to take out a tablespoon, and somehow the jar would magically be empty, and I would be curled in the corner with chocolate all of my fingers, denying any involvement.  And then I would be moving on to the bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips in the pantry. So I thought I would go with a version that utilizes jars that are already open, and won’t lead me down a  path of consumption followed by self-loathing.  Plus, she uses quick oats, and I typically only have regular Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats in the cabinet.  And I am obsessed lately with Blue Diamond Almond Breezes Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk.  But, you could definitely use plain almond milk, or regular milk (maybe with a little almond extract added).  And I am sure it would be equally as good with any other nut butter of your choosing.

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on wood

You really should try this.  It’s like dessert…  at breakfast…  but with no guilt in the form of added sugars or artificial sweeteners.  Or an empty jar of Nutella.

Shared with:

Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Pennywise Platter Thursday 3/14 at The Nourishing Gourmet


Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal (serves 1)

Adapted from Sumptuous Spoonful’s Quick & Easy Banana Nutella Oatmeal

Ingredients

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on OrangeHalf of an over-ripe banana, mashed up a bit

1/3 c old-fashioned oats (I use good ol’ Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats)

2/3 c milk (I used Blue Diamond Almond Breezes Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk, but you could use any almond milk, or even regular milk, but the you may want to add a little almond extract)

1/2 t vanilla

1 T almond butter (or other nut butter of your choice)

1 T cocoa powder (or cacao, if that’s how you roll)

Pinch of salt

Slices of bananas and/or almonds, if desired

Directions

1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.

2.  Microwave on High for 2 minutes.

3.  Stir.

4.  Microwave for another 2 minutes, or to desired doneness.  If you like it really soft, you may want to add a little water and cook longer.

5.  Top with banana and almond slices, if using.

Enjoy!

Chcocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on pink cloth

Living the Sweet (and Savory) Life this Weekend in Rehoboth Beach

a.k.a. Why I eat lots of salad and workout a lot during the week…

Throughout my whole life, my mom and I were likethis.  We did EVERYTHING together.  And yes, “likethis” and “EVERYTHING” deserve the visual emphasis.  So needless to say, even though I was thrilled about beginning married life with my wonderful new hubby, I was pretty sad that she moved over 3 hours away while I was on my honeymoon!  I actually moved back home after college, and lived with her, my stepfather (who I affectionately refer to as “My Larry”, and my sister (who The Bug affectionately refers to as “Ham-Ham”, a.k.a. Aunt Sam) until my wedding day.  I miss her (and all of them) everyday, and especially since The Bug was born.  So after a lifetime in Central New Jersey, they now live just outside of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and not too far from some other cool shore towns, like Lewes, Bethany Beach, and Dewey Beach, Delaware, and Fenwick Island and Ocean City, Maryland.

The best thing about them living there is that it is like going on vacation every time we visit.  We go to the beach and boardwalk in the summer, check out lots of live music at the clubs and bars, shop, watch fireworks and parades, go to local events like tree lightings and Polar Bear Plunges, and try out lots of great restaurants.  And The Hubby and I get to go on some dates, since we have some ready and willing babysitters available.  And we are away from home, and the projects and chores staring at us, keeping us from relaxing like we probably need to.

The worst thing about them living there is that it is like going on vacation every time we visit.  We eat lots of beach and boardwalk food like ice cream and french fries, enjoy some drinks at the local clubs and bars, eat ice cream while watching fireworks and parades, go to local events like the Chocolate Festival and Punkin’ Chunkin’, and try out lots of great restaurants.  And don’t exercise as much as at home, except for maybe a dip in the pool or a walk on the beach or boardwalk.

This is a ton of fun and good for our mental well-being, though perhaps not so good for our health and waistline.  This weekend was no exception.  The Bug and I came down for a visit, and while the Hubby went to work, did chores around the house, feasted on meat and political discussions with his best friend, and went fishing, we opted for a different kind of fun, mostly centered around food.

When we arrived on Thursday, we went out for Mexican food at La Tonalteca.  This wasn’t too bad, since The Bug ate a third of what was on my plate.  If you saw the video I posted, you saw that he loves Mexican.  Oh, and I found a great trick to keep yourself from eating too many tortilla chips – bring a toddler who you don’t want to stuff himself on chips before the “real food” comes.  My mom and I both found that our hands went into the chip basket less, because if The Bug saw us eating them, he wouldn’t have stopped.

Friday morning, after a quick stop to buy some new clothes for The Bug, he, Mom, Ham-Ham and I headed into Rehoboth Beach to buy our tickets for the Chocolate Festival.  Now we could have picked them up at the Rehoboth Beach Main Street office, one of the clothing stores, or The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel.  But we decided to go to Cake Break.  Just to get the tickets.

Cake Break Box

Right….

Cupcakes from Cake Break Rehoboth Beach

The owners were so nice, and the cupcakes looked so delectable that we could not pass them up.  Cake Break is also a great, family friendly place.  They have decorate-your-own cupcakes for the little ones, coffee and pastries for the moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas, and also cater to those with allergies, offering up gluten-free cupcakes and running an entirely nut-free shop.

The Bug was not too happy when we told him that he had to wait until later to eat his cupcake.

Ham-Ham and The Bug at The Point

So then it was lunchtime, and we headed back out towards Rt. 1 to The Point.

The Point

Obviously the best way to placate a toddler who was denied a cupcake is to take him to a place where you are greeted by this display case,

The Bug at pastry case at The Point

and then make him eat this…

The Bug's Cheese Sandwich and Fruit

Special request cheddar cheese sandwich with fresh fruit.

The Point is owned and operated by the same folks as The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel and Victoria’s Restaurant (where they do an extensive and delicious Sunday brunch, I might add).  It is an awesome little cafe and pastry shop with amazing baked goods,

The Point Sticky Bun

Sticky Buns!!

tasty, yummy sandwiches, salads made with fresh, often local and organic ingredients,

The Point Egg Salad Sandwich

Egg salad sandwich

delicious soups, made fresh daily,

Tomato Gorgonzola and Shrimp Bisque at The Point

Tomato, gorgonzola, and shrimp bisque

and lots of great coffees and coffee drinks,

Caramel Frappe

Caramel Frappe

and the most amazingly friendly manager, Tom, who greets regular by name (and often with their “usual”), and makes non-regulars feel like they are visiting him in his own home, so that they want to come back again and again.

Tom at The Point

Tom is greeting his customers

I imagine that this is what Starbucks was before there were 9,089,57,892,678,123,904 locations.  And I should add that their Espresso Chocolate Torte won the Grand Prize at the Chocolate Festival last year.

So I was just going to have a nice, light (and might I add, very tasty) salad for lunch.

The Point Fresh Fruit Salad

Salad of organic greens, fresh fruit, your choice of cheese (I had blue cheese), walnuts, almonds, and raspberry vinaigrette.

But then I looked towards the pastry cake, and it was like a magnetic field drawing me in…

Pastry Case with Chocolate Parfait

closer…

Pastry Case with Chocolate Parfait closer

Umm, just a salad?!  Sure…

The Point Chocolate Parfait

But I did share.

Sharing with The Bug

So later that evening, I made a nice, healthy dinner full of veggies, which was so good that I will definitely be posting it later this week.

And then topped it off with cupcakes…

Cake Break Yellow Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting

The Bug approved!

The Bug with Cupcake

7:58 pm

The Messy Bug

8:00 pm

Empty Plate

8:02 pm

Unlike my son, I savored my rich, sweet, but not too sweet Rocky Road cupcake, because two insanely chocolatey desserts in one day is perfectly acceptable…

Rocky Road Cupcake from Cake Break

Especially the day before you are going here:

Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival Tickets

Now it was Saturday morning, and time to head to the Chocolate Festival.  So here is the fabulous thing about the Chocolate Festival.  Lots of restaurants, bakeries, professional chefs, and amateurs enter their best chocolate creations, and for a $2 entry fee (which includes on tasting), and $0.50 for each additional tasting, you can try all of these goodies.  And Mom and I did.  For a grand total of $14, we split all of our tastings, so got to try around 20 different, amazing chocolate treats.  Silly Mom gave up candy for Lent, though, so I can’t tell you about any of the candy entries, and neither of us are big cheesecake fans, so we passed on those.  But when it came to cakes and brownies and cookies, well we were all over that!

So are you tempted by this photo?!?!

Table of cakes

Then you have to click here to see all of the chocolate awesomeness we experienced!  I am still not a WordPress expert, and can’t figure out how to put a slideshow and still photos in the same post without the still photos ending up in the slideshow. Sorry!

I also had the pleasure of meeting Dru Tevis, the pastry chef at Hobos and Cloud 9, two places I actually haven’t been yet, but will definitely be adding to my list for future visits.  He will also be having a stand at the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market, which starts up Tuesday, May 1st.

Dru Tevis

As you can see from the picture, his confections had beautifully, perfectly imperfect layers of moist cake and cream and custard and ganache.  And Mom and I can attest that the banana cake and Nutella cookies were fabulous!

His entries from Cloud 9 also won a couple of ribbons in the Brownie and Cake Categories.

Restaurant Winners List

Many of the other local restaurants and bakeries were in on the action, too, producing some more beautiful and equally tasty treats to enter in the contest, display, and sell.

The Point Palm Beach Silk CakeThe Point entered their Palm Beach Silk Cake, a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry-Chambord compote.

Stingrays Chocolate SushiStingrays had a unique display of chocolate “sushi.”

Cake Break Mini CupcakesCake Break brought the uber-trendy and delicious cake pops and these adorable mini cupcakes.

Cake Bar

Cake Bar had some beautiful display cakes, and had a couple of winning entries.

Sugar Bakers

Sugar Bakers also displayed their cakes, and they won the Grand Prize in Cakes.

Touch of Italy

Touch of Italy also had some award winners, and I can tell you the Nutella brownies were as good as you would expect Nutella brownies to be.

Gelato Gal

Gelato Gal scooped a couple of their most chocolaty flavors of creamy gelato.

If you read my first post, you know I am all about balance.  So to balance all of the sugar and chocolate, what better than Bethany Blues BBQ in Lewes for:

Bethany Blues Lettuce Wedge

Veggies - Lettuce Wedge with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Bethany Blues Pulled Pork

Protein - Pulled Pork

Bethany Blues Cheesy Creamed Corn and Baked Beans

Grains and Legumes - Cheesy Creamed Corn and Baked Beans

The Bug clearly approves!

The Bug at Bethany Blues

And just to show you that we didn’t just stuff our faces all weekend, we did go to the park…

Mom, Larry and The Bug at the park in Lewes

and played…

The Bug on the slide

for about 20 minutes…

The Bug in the tube

before lunch!!

If you have made it this far, either you are pictured in one of these photos, are very bored, or you love sweets just as much as I do.  I hope you enjoyed this deviation from your not-so-regularly scheduled recipe posts to read about my tasty weekend.  If you are in the area, check out some of these places or events.  In the interest in some more balance, coming up this week will be a vegetarian eggplant recipe, a spaghetti squash tutorial, and maybe a smoothie or two.  And “Muff-cakes.”  You know, BALANCE!  Now back to the gym…

Do you love chocolate?  What are some of your favorite sweet treats?  Help inspire some future blog posts, and hopefully and entry for me into next year’s competition.

Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival Preview

A little preview of the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival, held this past Saturday, March 3rd, in the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.  The full blog post is coming up soon!

Click on any of the images to see a larger slideshow.