Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar


Thinking of a gift to make for my dear Stumpf family, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and gave it a try. It reminded me of the time I made Fig Bread Pudding with Balsamic Drizzle, and how good the balsamic was paired with the sweetness of the bread pudding. Next time, I will try drizzling chocolate balsamic on the bread pudding instead. Yum. But, for those of you who wonder what else this could go on, try some fruit. Or ice cream. Its meant to be paired with something sweet, not to go into a salad.

This recipe makes about 16 ounces of chocolate balsamic

2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Reduce the vinegar by half (from 2 cups to 1 cup) over low heat. This will take approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. The vinegar will thicken and coat its pan. Set aside to cool once reduced. *If you start with a better balsamic vinegar, you can skip this step and simply use 1 cup of balsamic straight from the bottle*

Next, dissolve sugar and salt into water. Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan.

Reduce the heat to low and add cocoa, stirring until all is incorporated and you start yo create a syrup. Add the vanilla. Set aside to cool.

Once completely cooled, mix the vinegar and chocolate syrup thoroughly. Put it in your desired glass container. This can be stored, sealed, in a cabinet at room temperature.

Almond Butter Balls

One of my favorite cookies every year during the Holidays are butter balls rolled in powdered sugar. Most usually they are made with pecans or walnuts. This time around, I made them with almonds, which happen to be my favorite nut. If you need to make a Christmas cookie this year, this is the one. And don’t worry, I won’t be offended if you use walnuts instead ;)

1 cup butter, softened
5 tbs granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sliced almonds
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the sugar and butter. It may seem like not a lot of sugar in the dough, but you will be rolling the cookie in sugar. Next, add the vanilla extract

Add the salt and nuts to the butter mixture. You can crush the almond slices a bit more if you like. Make sure to thoroughly coat the almonds in the butter mixture.

Add the flour. Make sure to mix well. The batter will be very crumbly.

Shape into 1 inch balls. They do not have to be perfect. Bake for 15 minutes. They should be a little brown on top. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a minute or so before trying to roll in sugar. Just take each ball, place in powdered sugar, and roll around.

I made these for a holiday treat for the people I work with. I also made gingerbread muffins that I dusted in powdered sugar, and put gingerbread men toothpicks in. Super cute!

Tomato and Cornichon Balsamic Salad

I accidentally made something delicious the other day while I was snacking. And ever since, I have been craving it. So last night’s dinner was a repeat of this Tomato and Cornichon Salad I made with the sweet fig balsamic I have still from my mom’s gift basket to me a few months ago. It is so good and refreshing and fresh. You could put it atop a bed of lettuce, probably arugula would be best, or make sourdough crostini, like I did.

2 large Roma Tomatos
1/4 cup sliced white onions, cut into quarter slices
10 cornichon pickles
3 ounces sharp, hard white cheddar
3 tbs good olive oil
3 tbs thick, sweet, good balsamic vinegar
(I used a fig balsamic)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by getting out a large, lovely bowl to put your salad in. Pour in the olive oil. Next, add your sliced white onions. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. I do this step first to have the olive oil pick up the flavor from the onion, so it flavors the entire salad.

Take the Roma Tomatoes, and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Next, cut each round in half and then in half again. You should have a stack of quarter tomato slices. Add them to the bowl with the onions, and toss. You need to taste the seasoning at this point. Is there enough salt and pepper? If not, add some more.

Once the tomatoes and onions are marinating, it is time to work on the pickles, which can be a little tricky. Essentially, you want to take each pickle and carefully slice them in half LONG WAYS. Then, you take each half and slice them in half again. Essentially, quarter pickles cut in the longer direction. Once done, add them to the tomato and onions mixture.

Once tossed, take your 3 ounces of cheddar cheese and rough chop it into some larger blocks, some smaller, etc. Add the cheese to the vegetable mixture.

When everything is tossed and incorporated, it is time to add the balsamic. Add the 3 tbs balsamic, and carefully toss the salad. Coat everything in the sweet dark liquid!


At this point, you can dig in. It is that good. Or, you can toss it in a salad. Or you can make sourdough crostini, like I did, and pile it on top of the toasts. (For directions on how to make crostini, click here.) Either way, this meal is homey and hearty enough to stand on its own as a delicious dinner with a bold glass of wine. Or, make it for your next party and serve it as an appetizer. It would even be great to take on a French Country themed picnic. Bon Appetite!

Butter Cake with Semi-Sweet Strawberry Chocolate Drizzle

This past Saturday, I relived some of my favorite things I remember about college. Birthdays with friends, various debauchery, and an impromptu Undie Run with the original crew. All in all, I think Janene’s birthday was an overall success.

Not wanting the lady of the hour to go without something delicious to eat, I decided to make her a Birthday cake. Her roommate Shannon, whom I have mentioned before, made her these insane black bottom cupcakes with a cream cheese center for her actual birthday. Attempting to go the polar opposite, I opted for a butter cake. But this one is extra special. Making a homemade strawberry puree, I swirled that into the bottom layer and then added a chocolate strawberry drizzle over the top. Oh yes… It was SO GOOD! And here is how it’s done…

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 2%)

Glaze and Strawberry Puree
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs hot water
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with butter, and then lightly flour the surface.This will insure that the cake will not stick to the pan. The last thing you want is a birthday cake with the top half of it ripped off.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Make sure everything is thoroughly incorporated. set the mixture aside.

Cream the butter and white sugar together. Next, add the eggs, and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. First, start with about half the dry, mix together. Next, half the milk. Mix together. Repeat. Stir until everything is mixed together.

Next, it it time to make the puree. Add the strawberries, lemon juice, water, and sugar to a blender. Blend until smooth. Set the mixture aside.

Now, pour ONLY HALF THE batter into prepared pan.

Next, pour 1 cup of the puree on top of the batter. Add the remaining half of the batter on top of the puree. Take a stick, end of a spoon, whatever you have, and CAREFULLY swirl the bottom half of the cake together with the puree. You want a solid layer of butter cake on top, with a swirled bottom layer.


Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. Make sure to test with a knife. Before you remove the cake from the pan, make sure to line whatever serving dish you plan on presenting the cake on with wax paper strips. This way, when we glaze it, we can simply pull the wax paper off for a clean looking finish on the cake.

When the cake it done, remove from pan by placing the plate with the wax paper on top of the bundt pan. Flip upside down, and the cake should come out. You will see a strawberry layer on bottom and the buttery layer on top.

To make the glaze, add 1 cup of the puree to 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir the chips. Microwave for another 45 seconds. By now, the mixture should be silky and smooth, with hardly any lumps.

Place the chocolate mixture in a zip lock bag. Seal it. Cut off the tip, and drizzle over the cake.

Let the cake set for a minute. Pull off the wax paper carefully. Wipe up any excess chocolate.

You will notice subtle strawberry swirls. Paired with the buttery moist cake, you could really use any fruit. Maybe try blueberries or raspberries. I hope you enjoy it!

My Desert Item on the menu at the Blue Dog Beer Tavern

I have some phenomenal news!
One of my favorite restaurants has asked me to design a seasonal desert for their menu!!!! Thank you Blue Dog Beer Tavern!
The Blue Dog Beer Tavern, which is close to my house and has seriously some of the best burgers around, is promoting me and Things I Make in My Kitchen this season. I am over the moon!!! Friday Dec 16th the desert will be pushed by the waiters and staff by word of mouth. And on Saturday, it makes its actual debut on the menu. The desert is inspired after my puppy, Brody. He is a spunky, devilish, caramel colored mutt from the pound and I love every second I get to spend with him. His playful nature brings out my inner child, and I thank him for always loving me, even on my toughest days.

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Rich, Creamy Hot Chocolate

You know what I hate? Hot Chocolate packets…. Yuck. I mean honestly, who wants powdered fake chocolate and water to drink anyways.

If you are a packet person, let me save you. I give you the richest, most perfect, hot chocolate in the world. 4 simple ingredients, thick, delicious, and a perfect vessel for mini marshmallows.

The recipe below was made for my Christmas party, so it is done in a large batch. It is how my mom used to make it, with a little twist. If it is just you and the family, using some math you can cut this recipe down :)

2 cups heavy cream
3 cups 2% milk
8 heaping tbs dutch cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Mini Marshmallows, optional

This cocoa is simple, thick, and creamy… but also customizable! If you want a thinner cocoa, I say try 5 cups of whole milk instead. Also, if you want a richer chocolate flavor, add more cocoa. Not as much of a chocolate fan? Put a little less. Or how about wanting to spice things up?… add some cinnamon for a Mexican Hot Cocoa. This would be great to do with leftovers from the above recipe.

Start by heating a medium pot on low. Pour in the cream and milk. Heat for 3 minutes. You never want the temperature too high or you will burn the milk. Next, add the cocoa powder. Whisk the mixture a bit to start incorporating the chocolate.

Add the granulated sugar. Whisk the mixture together till there is no sugar or dry powder left on top of the milk mixture.

Simmer together on low. This is the time for you to taste the Cocoa. Do you want it more chocolaty? A little thinner? This would also be when you add cinnamon for a Mexican Hot Cocoa. Whisk the mixture together occasionally. You want to get it a little frothy and airy.

Pour into festive mugs. If you like, add a few mini marshmallows. Enjoy :)

I think she likes it!
Shira taking a sip…


Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

The smell of gingerbread baking is one of the best (!!!!!!) smells ever. I sometimes keep dough in my freezer so I can make cookies past the holidays because they are so good. My favorite gingerbread recipe is an adaption of this one: Big Soft Ginger Cookies. My variation makes this crunchy crust all over the cookie, but leaves a warm, soft, inside. You can make these as drop cookies, or refrigerate them for an hour to roll out and cut into shapes.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (if rolling out the cookies, add 1/4 cup more flour to the dough)
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
1 1/8 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar, separate 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 and 1/8cup sugar until light and fluffy. You want to make sure this is well incorporated, so there is no large chunks of butter.

Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. 

Gradually stir the flour and spice mixture into the molasses mixture. A soft dough will form.

At this pint you can do one of two things. You can either roll out the dough to cut shapes or shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. If you are cutting the dough into shapes, make sure your refrigerate the dough for an hour, making sure to wrap it in saran wrap. Once chilled, flour your surface, roll out the dough, and cut into shapes. Sprinkle with sugar and add some raisin eyes to your gingerbread men. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

If you are shaping into walnut sized balls, get a bowl and add the 2tbs sugar. I decided to freeze my dough to use closer to Christmas when I make gifts for the people in my office. So for this example, you will see me only making one drop cookie. I wanted to be able to show you an example. Once the sugar is in the bowl, roll your dough into a ball, half the size of a golf ball. Place the cookie in the sugar and roll around until completely coated. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart, then flatten each cookie slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.