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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Mexican Pineapple Black Bean Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes – No More ‘Mallows!

I have lots of dreams.  Strange Weird Crazy Stupid Lame Awesome as it sounds, many of those dreams have to do with food.  Things like open a bed & breakfast, become a sommelier, own a cafe/wine bar/bakery, be a waitress at a really fancy restaurant, meet Giada or Tyler or Michael or Tom or Mario (DiLaurentiis, Florence, Symon, Collicchio, and Batali for those of you who aren’t on a first name basis with them, as I am), write a cookbook…

One of those dreams is to win a recipe contest.  Now I have always been an overachiever, so I have my sights set on the $1 Million Pillsbury Bake-Off.  But I figure I should probably start a little smaller.  So when I saw Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen post her entry for the No More ‘Mallows! recipe contest, sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, I knew I had to enter.  I had just made a sweet potato recipe a couple of weeks ago that I thought would be perfect for this contest.

No More 'Mallows!

The black bean filling for my spin on baked stuffed potatoes is based on this Black Bean & Mango Taco recipe from my friend, Michelle, at Find Your Balance.  She is a health coach, and has some awesome, healthy recipes.  Pinapple Black Bean Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes with ForkAnything that gets my husband to eat and love a dinner that does not include meat must be good.  And The Bug loves Mexican.  So her recipe has become one of our family favorites.  But I have switched it up some, and instead of tacos, I thought it would be awesome stuffed into some sweet potatoes.  And, just to make Michelle happy, I added in some dark, leafy greens and Greek yogurt (though the leafy greens could be optional, if you are not a fan, and you could use sour cream, if you prefer).

So give this a try for your Meatless Monday, Lent Friday, or any day, really.  It’s that good.  No need to reserve it for your vegetarian days (unless all of your days are vegetarian days).  It has a lot of ingredients, but most are probably already in your pantry.  Oooh, and it would probably also be good with some of this.

Pineapple Black Bean Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes with Limes and Avocado

Have you ever entered a recipe contest?  What are some of the random, seemingly silly goals you have?

Mexican Pineapple Black Bean Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes (serves 4)

Adapted from Black Bean & Mango Tacos from Find Your Balance

Ingredients

For Sweet Potatoes:

4 sweet potatoes

half of a lime

1/2 t kosher salt

1 T olive oil

For Monterey Jack Creamy Swiss Chard:

16 c Swiss chard (or other dark, leafy green of your choice) – I know this sounds like a lot, but it really cooks down

Monterey Jack Swiss Chard1/4 t salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c milk (any kind will do, I used 1%)

1 c (about 4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

For Pineapple Black Beans:

1 T olive oil

half of a large sweet onion, chopped

Black Beans1/4 t salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 red pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 lime

2 T chili powder

1 T cumin

1/2 c water

Pineapple Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes on plate1 c chopped fresh or canned pineapple

2 T chopped cilantro

For garnish (optional):

1/2 c Greek yogurt (I like Chobani) or sour cream

1/2 lime

chopped avocado

cilantro

Directions

1.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.

2.  Squeeze half of a lime into a bowl and add the salt.  Toss the sweet potatoes in the lime-salt mixture.

3.  Wrap each potato individually in aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until soft (alternatively, you could cook them in the microwave for about 10-15 minutes, but NOT with the aluminum foil)

4.  While the sweet potatoes are baking, prepare the fillings.  Start by spraying a large pan with olive oil or cooking spray, and putting over medium heat.

5.  Add the Swiss chard, salt and pepper, and cover with a lid.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until wilted, stirring every couple of minutes.

6.  Remove the lid and add the milk and cheese.  Cook until thickened slightly and cream.  Set aside.

7.  In the same pan or in a clean pan, heat the olive and add the onions, salt, and pepper.  Cook until starting to turn translucent.

8.  Add the red pepper and cook until the onions and peppers are soft.

9.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the black beans, juice of a lime, chili powder, cumin, and water, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until heated through.  You can keep covered over a low heat until the sweet potatoes are ready.

10.  Stir the pineapple and cilantro into the black bean mixture.

11.  Combine the Greek yogurt or sour cream and lime juice, and chop the avocado and cilantro, if using.

12.  Slice open the baked sweet potatoes, and fill with the swiss chard and black bean mixture.  Top with the desired garnishes.

Enjoy!

Pineapple Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes close up
This recipe was shared with:

Kelly the Kitchen Kop’sReal Food Wednesday 3/21/12

These Chicks Cooked Recipe Swap #44

The Countertop Confections’ What’s Cooking Thursday 3/22/12

A Little Nosh’s Tastetastic Thursday 3/22/12

Savannah’s Savory Bites Friday Feature Blog Hop 3/23/12

Amee’s Savory Dish Fit and Fabulous Friday 3/23/12

Friday Fun! #1

Lunch at Computer

Happy Friday everyone!  I know I don’t work outside the home, but I still look forward to Friday.  I love knowing that The Hubby will be home with me and The Bug for a couple days.  I usually have at least one meal planned that is a little more special than our usual Monday to Friday fare.  And hopefully we have something fun planned.  This weekend it is a Date Night!  My dad, Grandpa Yee-Haw (since that is what The Bug says every time he sees him) is coming to babysit.  So The Hubby and I get to have a meal alone that isn’t interrupted by someone spitting out food and yelling to have his hands wiped.  Unless one of us drinks too much.  Kidding!  I love my kid, but I have practically every single meal with him, and it gets old.

So in honor of Friday, I decided to start a fun series of posts showing what I am loving this week, mainly from my reading of articles and blogs on the internet.

At this moment, I am loving lunch.  Well actually I just finished my last bite.  It was a wonderful salad inspired by this Pineapple Arugula Salad from Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  I had just cut up a bunch of pineapple the day I saw this recipe, and knew it HAD to be lunch one day this week.  I switched it up a bit using what I had in the house – feta instead of goat cheese, pine nuts instead of walnuts, pineapple juice and poppy seeds in the dressing instead of lime juice and mint, and I added a couple strawberries, just because.  Yum!

Pinapple Salad from Far Away

Speaking of pineapples and things I love, I love that The Bug calls them “Bye-Bye-Apples.”  I have no idea why, but it is so cute!

I am also excited about the chance to win a $50 Visa Gift Card and PEANUT BUTTER(!!!) from Averie Cooks, and to check out her blog.  I just found it, and it looks awesome!

Clearly, even after last weekend (or maybe because of last weekend), I still have chocolate on the brain!

Well, I hope you check out some of these links, and have a great weekend.  And I’ll leave you with what will probably become my weekly questions:

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

Enjoy!

Pineapple Salad Closeup