Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Top Chef

Fig Fudge Balls: Guest Post by Nancy J. Para aka Nancy Coco

I love when my mystery and chocolate worlds collide. Today I have a guest post from Nancy J Parra aka Nancy Coco aka Nell Hampton. Nancy J Parra is the author of over 25 published novels which include five mystery series. Her writing has been called witty and her protagonists plucky by reviewers around the world. Nancy is a member of Sisters in Crime and writes for the Killer Character Blog on the 8th of every month. Nancy loves to hear from readers. 

Nancy Coco 
Allie McMurphy, Mackinac Island, and Fudge!  

I enjoy writing the Mackinac Island Fudge Shop stories in the Candy-coated Mystery series. There is something so lovely about an island that does not allow any cars. It is filled with quaint Victorian cottages thee size of modern day mansions and shops filled with fudge and old-time photos. There are multiple state parks and bicycle rentals where you can drive along an eight-mile shore line.

Allie McMurphy runs the Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop. She is something of an amateur sleuth getting into all kinds of mischief with her puppy Mal and her Kitty Carmella. The latest in the series, Oh, Fudge, takes place toward the end of Allie’s first tourist season as owner of her family business. Always working hard to fit into the tight-knit, Island society, Allie has volunteered to help at the Mackinac Island Butterfly House. Unfortunately, she and her dog, Mal, arrive in time to witness Allie’s cousin, Tori Andrews, kneeling over a dead woman and Tori’s hands are around the murder weapon.

Allie makes it her mission to clear her cousins good name and find the killer, but it isn’t easy. Especially when Allie learns that her boyfriend, Trent Jessop once dated Tori. And worse, Allie discovers Tori kissing Trent. There is much intrigue as Allie struggles to outsmart a killer and keep her boyfriend.

The best part of writing the series is getting to create new fudge recipes. One of my favorites from this book is Fig Fudge Balls. I’ll share it with you here:

Fig Fudge Balls 

1 1/2 cup cashews
2 cups figs with stems removed
3 Tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp coarse sea salt

Mix figs and cashews in food processor on high until you make a paste. Add remaining ingredients and process on high until well mixed. Roll into small balls. Sprinkle sea salt on top and enjoy! Bio:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

HOMEMADE HOSTESS CUPCAKES: National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day, so I thought I'd post a homemade recipe for a nostalgia chocolate cupcake: Hostess CupCakes. FYI: Hostess CupCakes are back on the shelves after a short hiatus, so you can also buy them today. But-- they'll taste so much better if you make your own.   

Hostess CupCakes were produced and distributed by Hostess Brands. The basic Hostess CupCake is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing and vanilla creme filling (Marshmallow Fluff flavor), with distinctive squiggles across the top. Hostess claims that it was the first commercially produced cupcake. Maybe. I grew up with TastyCake cakes and pies, and the Chocolate Cupcakes were my favorites. TastyCake makes the same claim about first produced.

From Wikipedia:
The Hostess CupCake was first sold on May 11, 1919. According to author Andrew F. Smith, it was the first commercially produced cupcake, originally produced by the Taggart Bakery as the Chocolate Cup Cake. Hostess has also claimed that it was "the first snack cake ever introduced to the market. In 2004, rival Tastykake disputed this claim, claiming that Tastykake introduced the first snack cake.
Originally, two cupcakes were sold for five cents. Until 1950, the Hostess CupCake did not have any filling or the white squiggly line across the top.
In 1947, D.R. "Doc" Rice, who started his career at Hostess in 1938 with a job that entailed dumping baked cakes on a table, was given the task of developing the Hostess CupCake further. These developments culminated in an updated cupcake in 1950. A white line consisting of squiggles was added to the top in order to distinguish the Hostess CupCake from other brands. The vanilla creme filling was also added. Rice got the idea for using a creme filling when a new machine for injecting filling into Hostess Twinkies became available. Improvements were also made to the cake mix and the chocolate icing in 1950.



2 sticks salted butter, softened  (8 Tbsp in a stick)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup natural cocoa powder, (Hershey's Baking Cocoa )
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup Marshmallow Fluff
1/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar

For Frosting and Decoration 
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp salted butter, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a 6- and 12-muffin tin with paper liners.

Cupcake Batter:
In bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer, cream 2 sticks of butter and granulated sugar together at medium speed, just until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at time, and mix just until combined. In measuring cup, stir 1/2 the cup of hot water and cocoa together until smooth. Add cocoa mixture to butter mixture and mix on low speed for additional 10 seconds.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in batches alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour and beating after each addition until ingredients are just blended.
Fill each prepared muffin cup half full with chocolate batter.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Using clean bowl and stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat marshmallow fluff, 1/3 cup butter, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar together until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute. Using handle of small fork or spoon, make hole in the top center of each cake. Gently rotate the utensil in each hole to create a small cavity at each opening. Transfer the filling to a piping bag and pipe in just enough marshmallow mixture to fill each hole.
Make sure it doesn't explode; once you feel it growing in size, stop infusing. Use wet fingertip or  back of spoon to tamp down marshmallow peaks, ensuring filling is even with top of cupcake.

In small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until bubbles form at edges. Add chocolate and remove pan from heat, stirring until chocolate melts. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and continue to stir until smooth. Let cool for three minutes.
Transfer chocolate to large deep glass bowl. Dip top of each cupcake into chocolate to coat, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
Let the cupcakes rest on a wire rack set over paper until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Frosting decoration:
In small bowl, beat 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar together until smooth, about two minutes. Transfer frosting to piping bag and decorate top of each cupcake with squiggles. Serve immediately. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Today is National Pasta Day, and I hope you're out there having some great pasta dishes at your favorite restaurant or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I used to make my own pasta a lot, but not so much anymore. There are so many fresh pasta vendors in my neighborhood. However, since it is National Pasta Day, I thought I'd post a few recipes for Chocolate Pasta.

Chocolate Pasta

1 3/4 cup Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa powder
2 Egg
4 Tbsp Water

Mix flour and cocoa well. Mound on work surface or in large bowl. Make deep well in center of mound and break the eggs into it. Beat eggs in twith fork, adding about 2 Tbsp water. Using circular motion, draw flour and cocoa into center. Toss in another Tbsp of Water. Stir with fork until all flour is moistened. Add more water as needed. Finish mixing by hand. Pat dough into ball. Clean off work surface, and flour it. Knead dough for about 10 minutes, or until dough becomes silky and elastic. Cover dough and let rest for half hour. Roll out 1/4 of dough at time. A machine makes this easy. Allow pasta to dry a little before cooking. Makes 4 to 5 cups of cooked pasta---plenty for dessert.

You can always buy some great dark chocolate pasta. There are many brands. My market sells fresh chocolate pasta!

Here are two recipes from Pappardelle (they make great Dark Chocolate Pasta)

Dark Chocolate Pasta with Chocolate Sauce

1 pound Pappardelle’s Dark Chocolate Pasta
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook pasta in pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain and rinse with cool water.
Melt chocolate chips and butter together in small saucepan. Add powdered sugar and milk. Stir constantly and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low simmer. Cook for 8 minutes, continuing to stir constantly. Add vanilla.
In serving dishes, add pasta, top with chocolate sauce. Garnish with favorite topping.

Chocolate Noodle Kugel

1 pound Pappardelle’s Dark Chocolate Noodles (these really are quite good)
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 cup whole milk
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 pound container of sour cream
1 pound container of small curd cottage cheese

2 cups cornflakes, coarsely crushed
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish (lasagna style pan).
Meanwhile, cook pasta in 6-8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain, then return to cooking pot and add butter. Toss until noodles are well coated and butter is completely melted.
Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined, then whisk in sour cream. Stir in cottage cheese and add to noodles. Spoon gently into baking dish.
For topping, stir together cornflakes, sugar, and cinnamon and sprinkle over noodles. Dot with butter and bake kugel until edges are golden brown, about 40-50 minutes. Let stand before serving.

Have some chocolate pasta recipes? Love to see them.