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Delicious chocolate mess: flourless Ghirardelli peanut butter cookies

Flourless peanut butter cookie with Ghirardelli chocolate.

Flourless peanut butter cookie with Ghirardelli chocolate.

That Ghirardelli chocolate square looks like a messy blob on top of that cookie, but you can’t go wrong when you combine the flavors of peanut butter and chocolate.

I came up with this random recipe when I saw all the chocolate I had left from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. Baking it with what was already in the kitchen appealed to the lazy baker in me.

(Related: Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco leads to sugar overload for good cause)

Flourless peanut butter cookies work because they only require a few ingredients, they’re easy to make and they turn out deliciously. They taste like genuine, flour-included cookies, and breaking off the edges of the cookie and dipping them in the melty chocolate center made the treat even more scrumptious.

It’s my own sloppy twist on the peanut butter blossom cookie (I’ll bake the chocolate inside the cookie next time!)

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Click here for the original flourless peanut butter cookie recipe, courtesy of Food Network/Claire Robinson. The following is my edited version, including personalized notes and suggestions:

All the ingredients you need for the recipe (I omitted the salt).

All the ingredients you need for the recipe (I omitted the salt).

Ingredients: 1 cup peanut butter; 1 cup sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract;1 large egg

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until it is well combined. The mixture may look a little grainy due to the sugar, but no worries: the cookies will not tasty grainy.

Spoon a hearty tablespoon of the mixture and ball it up in your hands. Set each mound of mixture about 1 inch apart from each other on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten the mounds by using the tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern on the cookies. Place a Ghirardelli mini in the center of each cookie.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 12 minutes, turning the position of the sheet halfway through baking. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

 
 

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Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco leads to sugar overload for good cause

So. Much. Chocolate. A sample of brownies from Arizona-based Fairytale Brownies.

So. Much. Chocolate. A sample of brownies from Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fairytale Brownies.

I never thought I would say this, but here it goes: There is such a thing as too much chocolate.

I discovered this after my visit to the 20th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, which easily brought out thousands of chocolate lovers to Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. For my $40 ticket, I received 15 chocolate samples, as well as 12 additional samples from the event’s chocolate and wine pavilion. I definitely got my money’s worth.

My stomach was not happy with me afterwards, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to try sample upon sample of rich, sweet chocolate creations from more than 50 vendors along the San Francisco Bay.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, which also featured a chocolate school and ice cream eating contest, benefited Project Open Hand. The San Francisco-based nonprofit provides healthy, nourishing meals to thousands of Bay Area residents battling serious, life-threatening diseases. For more information, call (415) 447-2300 or visit www.openhand.org.

Check out the gallery of some of the treats I saw and tasted on Sunday, Sept. 13.

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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in baked goods, chocolate, dessert, food

 

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Maple bacon sundae with bread pudding makes San Jose Bacon Festival worth the trip

The Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae from FK Frozen Custard.

The Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae from FK Frozen Custard.

The San Jose Bacon Festival of America was an event I was looking forward to all week.

Moveable Feast hosted the event, which highlighted “bacon on everything” treats (typically $6 or less) from more than 20 local food trucks and expected a crowd of 15,000 bacon lovers at downtown San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez this past Labor Day weekend. Moveable Feast also hosted the San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation in May.

Related: Pulled pork waffle & Indian-style tacos highlight trip to Moveable Feast’s SJ Taco Festival

Unfortunately, I made a few rookie mistakes that led to me not staying at the bacon festival too long:

1. Not bringing water;

2. Not wearing sunscreen or a big hat; and

3. Not having the patience to stand in lines of 40-plus people to get food.

However, I did visit three vendors, and I plan to at least double that number next year.

FK Frozen Custard, Bay Area

I tend to stay away from custard because it’s usually too rich and sweet for my taste. But I ran into two bacon fans who raved about the Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae at FK Frozen Custard (the food truck company goes by Frozen Kuhsterd on Facebook).

One of the shorter lines at the San Jose Bacon Festival of America.

Some of the shorter lines at the San Jose Bacon Festival of America.

The sundae was absolutely delicious and a great way to indulge. The bread pudding was made out of donut and drizzled in bacon burnt caramel and a generous amount of maple bacon pieces. It was a great sweet-and-savory combination.

I chose the vanilla bean custard, which was a couple steps richer and creamier than vanilla ice cream without going over the top. The bread pudding had a rich and thick texture, and part of the custard melting underneath made the pudding that much more moist. It was one of those dishes that you didn’t want to stop eating.

FK has more than 30 flavors to choose from, including cinnamon toast crunch, avocado and port wine strawberry. The food truck travels to different locations throughout the San Francisco & San Jose Bay Area. For more information, visit www.frozenkuhsterd.com.

Close-up of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle from Sweetdragon Baking Company.

Close-up of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle from Sweetdragon Baking Company.

Sweetdragon Baking Company, San Jose

I’ve always enjoyed peanut brittle, so I was looking forward to having the salty-sweet treat with bacon.

The Sweetdragon Baking Company was giving out free samples of different flavors, including Maple Bacon Peanut and Honey Jack Bacon, which was made with almonds.

I bought a packet of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle. It had a sweet and buttery taste, with bits of bacon throughout the bar. I expected the brittle to be hard and crunchy, but it was rather chewy. Be prepared to get some stuck between your teeth but savor the flavor.

The Sweetdragon Baking Company sells its brittle online and in more than a dozen stores, cafes, farmers markets and other venues in the Bay Area. The company offers peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio and black sesame brittle.

For more information, call (408) 205-7319 or visit sweetdragonbaking.com.

Thai Thai Food Truck, San Jose

My last stop was the Thai Thai Food Truck, which offers Thai cuisine such as Pad Thai, Roti and Red & Yellow Curry.

The Bacon Golden Roll at Thai Thai Food Truck.

The Bacon Golden Roll at Thai Thai Food Truck.

I ordered the Bacon Golden Roll, described as a Thai-style egg roll filled with vegetables and topped with bacon and green onion.

The rolls themselves tasted fine. I liked the crispy wrapping, and the cabbage and sprouts inside were cooked well. However, this dish was a bit uninspired.

I wish the food truck had been more creative than just topping the rolls with small bits of bacon and onion. I was hoping there would be pieces of bacon inside the roll, making the filling more savory.

There was no cohesion between the rolls and the bacon, making the bacon seem out of place. It would have been better if the food truck made a bacon and onion relish or sauce for dipping and drizzling over the rolls.

Thai Thai Food Truck travels to locations throughout the San Jose area. For more information, visit www.thaithaifoodtruck.com.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in bacon, baked goods, dessert

 

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Fancy fruit tarts, unbelievable clam chowder & more, Everywhere, California

The Croque Monsieur panini at Harvey's Bar & Restaurant, San Francisco.

The Croque Monsieur panini at Harvey’s Bar & Restaurant, San Francisco.

Last week, I got a chance to travel along the California coastline with one of my best friends. Along with taking in some of the amazing scenery that the state has to offer, we took on some culinary adventures as well. Check out some of the establishments where we satisfied our appetites between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Harvey’s Restaurant & Bar, San Francisco

Harvey’s is a highly-rated, well-known restaurant and bar in San Francisco’s Castro District and serves as a tribute to politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk. The restaurant has a modern yet laid-back atmosphere, and the staff were very courteous and welcoming.

I decided to order the Croque Monsieur panini, which came toasted with country pit ham, havarti and parmesan cheese, dijon and herbed aioli, a creamy sauce usually made with garlic, egg yolks, olive oil and lemon juice. I ordered fries as my side.

To me, panini is just a fancy name for grilled sandwich. But this was a very good, fancy grilled sandwich. The cheese tasted fresh and melted just right, and the aioli added a great flavor to the sandwich. I think I’m going to order anything that has aioli on it for now on.

Me at Pismo Beach. Sorry, no clam chowder photo.

Me at Pismo Beach. Sorry, no clam chowder photo.

I also ordered a cranberry & vodka (warning: Harvey’s makes their cranberry & vodkas strong), and the Outrageous cocktail, which was made with Absolut Citron and Mandrin, 7Up, fresh lime and cranberry juice on the rocks in a pint glass. I typically don’t like cocktails that have more than three ingredients because they tend to be too sweet. But the Outrageous cocktail was refreshing, and I didn’t feel like I was drinking a cup of syrup.

Altogether, my bill came out to about $26, including tax. Harvey’s is located at 500 Castro St. Call (415) 431-4278 or visit www.harveyssf.com for more information.

Splash Cafe, Pismo Beach

I love seafood, so I definitely wanted to stop by Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach, which touts its award-winning New England clam chowder. It also has received requests from Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit magazine for its clam chowder recipe, according to its website.

I can believe it because that was the best clam chowder I have ever had. The clams and potatoes were tender, and the broth was creamy and savory. Although it already came in a bread bowl, the chowder was also accompanied by two slices of buttery, grilled sourdough bread to dunk into it. They were a great complement to the dish. I was in a blissful state eating this chowder.

The chowder itself was enough for a meal, but since my eyes were bigger than my stomach that night, I also ordered the cafe’s fish and chips entree. The fish was fresh, flaky, lightly breaded and not overly seasoned. I also like that the fish came with a side of curly fries. I devoured my food so quickly that I forgot to take a photo of the spread (Oops!).

Along with a fountain drink, my meal came out to about $19, including tax. Splash Cafe is located at 197 Pomeroy Ave. Call (805) 773-4653 or visit splashcafe.com for more information.

Fruit tart at Bottega Louie in Los Angeles.

Fruit tart at Bottega Louie in Los Angeles.

Bottega Louie, Los Angeles

A friend we were visiting in Los Angeles said if we like dessert, then we needed to go to Bottega Louie. From the marble floors to the gold-trimmed tables, this restaurant was so upscale that I felt like I needed to be wearing a gown in order to dine there.

The patisserie staff members were standing behind the fancy glass displays, waiting to take our order. From the tiramisu to the creme brulee to macarons, there were so many delicious-looking desserts to choose from. Several of them were in the $10 to $15 range. I decided on the fruit tart, which was made with vanilla creme custard and fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

I’ll be honest. I went with the fruit tart because it was one of the more affordable desserts at $6. However, I wasn’t disappointed by my choice. The fruit tart brought the flavor. The custard was rich without being over-the-top decadent, and the fresh fruit was delicious and created a nice presentation. If I’m in the LA area again and I’m craving dessert, I will come back to Bottega Louie (this time, in a nicer outfit).

Bottega Louie is located at 700 S. Grand Ave. For more information, call (213) 802-1470 or visit www.bottegalouie.com.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in bakery, dessert, seafood

 

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