Chocolate Leaf Tutorial

Weren’t you just saying to yourself, “What I need right now is a tutorial on how to make chocolate leaves”? Wow, that’s so weird, because I’m about to give you one! I absolutely adore these chocolate beauties as a fancy-in-a-flash garnish for cakes, alongside ice cream, or atop a chocolate cream pie. Not only are they easier than sin to make, but they taste way better than fondant, which is what you’d usually use to make a pretty, edible adornment. With the holidays coming, these would be a lovely way to outdo your sister-in-law enhance a festive dessert.

So how, you may ask, do you make them? Do you need a special mold or complicated equipment? Nope. You just need chocolate and access to a tree…or a bush…or a flower pot. Seriously. Here’s the step-by-step lowdown:

How to Make Chocolate Leaves:

(Original idea from Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen by Nicole Aloni…which, by the way, is a fabulous book for party planning)

Ingredients:

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Materials:

Leaves
Wax Paper
Silicone basting brush

1. Pick pliable, intact leaves from a rose bush, bougainvillea, eucalyptus tree, etc.

2. Thoroughly wash and dry leaves.

3. Melt desired amount of chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a small bowl in the microwave. (1/2 cup yields about 12 rose leaves.)

4. Using silicone basting brush, paint melted chocolate onto the backs of the leaves until completely covered, except for the stem.

5. Place covered leaves on a plate lined with wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate has cooled/hardened.

6. Holding the leaf stem, peel the chocolate imprint off of the leaf.

7. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until ready for use.

Garnish!

Pumpkin Butter

Whoa. Did you have any idea that pumpkin butter is super easy to make? I didn’t. Having made apple butter before, which is practically tantamount to bottling your own wine, I always assumed that other “butters” of the fruit/vegetable variety would be the same way. When you make apple butter, you have to first cook down the apples into sauce, then put the sauce in a crock pot or on the stovetop for like 10-12 hours, stirring as you go. It’s like potty training–you can’t leave your house for an entire day for fear of a goopy mess. (Not saying it’s not worth it; it’s just really time-consuming.)

Pumpkin butter, on the other hand, takes you from canned pumpkin to autumn-flavored bliss in 30 minutes. Who knew? Basically, you just dump some simple ingredients in a saucepan and simmer as they combine to reach that velvety consistency that’s smooth as, well, butter. Try this and you’ll never go back to the expensive-by-comparison store-bought version!

And since this recipe is so quick and easy, I’ve been daydreaming about the many uses for this creamy, pumpkiny treat. Here are some that come to mind:

  • in oatmeal
  • on toast/muffins/scones
  • on top of cornbread for a lovely fall-inspired twist (alongside pumpkin chili, perhaps?)
  • in yogurt
  • in place of jam in thumbprint cookies
  • as a cake filling
  • with cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter for a sinful Pumpkin Butter Frosting
  • as a unique homemade Christmas gift

Tell me your favorite use for pumpkin butter!

Pumpkin Butter
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. apple juice
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, sugar, and spices in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until thickened and creamy.

Transfer to sterile container and chill in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 pint jar.

Garlic Herb Potato Wedges

If there’s one thing every kid will eat, it’s French fries, right? Or maybe mac and cheese…or pizza…or chocolate cake. (Hmm, this is starting to sound like a list of my favorite foods.) As for French fries, despite their francophile name, they are an all-American staple, especially for little ones. And while I don’t mind the frozen variety, they’ve got nothing on these crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside garlic herb potato wedges. I’ve made them time and again as a pitch-perfect accompaniment to other American classics like meatloaf, barbecue pork, fried chicken, and more. The combination of herbs plus the subtle coating of olive oil make these a craveable side dish for grown-ups and kids alike. Plus, they look way fancier than the Ore-Ida crinkle cut variety that look a little too much like worms for my taste:


Right?

Save the worm fries for Halloween. Make these potato wedges anytime.

Garlic Herb Potato Wedges
(Adapted from About.com)

Ingredients:

4 medium Russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil, depending on size of potatoes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed fine
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, thyme, paprika, pepper, and salt. Set aside.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 equally sized wedges. Place wedges in a large bowl and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle herb mixture over potatoes and toss again until evenly coated.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Place the potato wedges, skin side down, on the foil, spaced evenly. Bake for 35 minutes or until well browned and crusty edged, turning every 10 minutes.

Serves 8.

I’m Mr. Potato Head and I approve of this recipe.

Lemon-Thyme Granita

I always used to be skeptical of granita. Typically containing only three ingredients–fruit juice, water, and sugar–it kinda sounds like some Weight Watchers trick to make you think juice is dessert. (Nice try, Weight Watchers.) But then I started making it, starting with this fancy-schmancy lime recipe, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It still doesn’t exactly fit the bill for a “real” dessert in my book (I think my definition for real dessert is “must contain fat”) but it is a lovely, light, refreshing after-dinner palate cleanser. Any fruit juice will do to make it. I’ve tried grapefruit, watermelon, lime, and lemon, and I’m especially curious to try this sangria version.

This time around, I happened to have a couple of lemons hanging around waiting to be put to some culinary use, so Dear Old Uncle Google willingly obliged an appropriate recipe. I love the unique twist the thyme infusion gives the flavor here–a subtle depth that balances the lemony sweetness nicely. Excellent for a little something different!

Lemon-Thyme Granita
From Taste of Home

Ingredients:

1 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 fresh thyme sprigs

In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice and thyme. Transfer to an 8-in. square dish; cool to room temperature.

Remove thyme sprigs. Freeze for 1 hour; stir with a fork. Freeze 2-3 hours longer or until completely frozen, stirring every 30 minutes.

Stir granita with a fork just before serving; spoon into dessert dishes. Yield: 2 cups.