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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Happy St. Patricks Day Green Smoothie – have a Shamrock Shake the healthy way!

So I have been dying to get myself a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. But then I realize that the last time I had one, I wasn’t thrilled.  I rarely indulge in a McDonald’s milkshake, but I don’t think they have been the same since they started putting whipped cream and a cherry on top.  I mean, this is McDonald’s, not an ice cream parlor, or even a diner.  Their food isn’t supposed to come with garnish.  Then I saw someone post the list of what is in a Shamrock Shake.  Not that I don’t ever consume those ingredients – I do loves me a McDonald’s Ice Cream Cone, and the ice cream is the main component of the shake – but it wasn’t worth the calories or chemicals for something I don’t really like.

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie in sunlightBut it is St. Patrick’s Day, and for some reason, I still thought a Shamrock Shake for breakfast was the way to celebrate, since the rest of my plans for the day are decidedly NOT Irish.  I’ve seem a lot of versions posted on various blogs this week, but most involved ice cream.  So I decided to make one that was breakfast-worthy (but definitely still yummy enough for dessert).  And it does not involve any green food coloring.  Or added sugar. I think I will be making one for The Bug for snack.  Throw a banana in your freezer in chunks, and it’ll be ready to make this for an after dinner treat.

I am not a huge mint person.  I regularly think to myself that I wish they made peanut butter-flavored toothpaste.  So this is admittedly a little light on the mint.  If you like things really minty, go ahead and add more mint extract.  And no, you can’t taste the kale, and if you blend it up, you don’t even know it is there, other than the lovely green color it gives the smoothie.

What are you doing for St. Patrick’s Day?  Eating or drinking anything green?  Or Irish?

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie from top

Shamrock Green Smoothie (serves 1)

Ingredients

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie1 frozen, really ripe banana

1 c milk (I used Almond Breeze Almond Coconut Milk, but you can use any milk you choose)

1/2 c kale (or other dark, leafy green of your choice)

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t mint extract

ice cubes – I used 4 regular-sized ones.  This was probably aboutn3/4 c.  Adjust accordingly based on the size of your ice cubes and how icy you want it.

Directions

1.  Put all ingredients into a blender (I used my trusty Magic Bullet), and blends until smooth.

2.  Pour into a glass to serve, and garnish with a strawberry, if you want to be all fancy.

Enjoy!

shamrock green smoothie from iphone

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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.