Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Those Pesky T-shirt Holes - It's Earth Day - Recycle

Today, Earth Day seems most appropriate to talk about what we can do to help preserve the rain forest. Can you imagine a world without chocolate and lots of other important and life saving things that originate there? 

While researching my upcoming novella, Chocolate and Sensibility, a tropical romance set in the rain forest, I came to appreciate even more the value of this precious ecosystem.  


On what might seem like a small scale, there is something we can do every day to help the environment.  I'm a crazy recycler. Nothing in my house escapes the recycling bin. 

We all get them - those pesky T-shirt holes that appear out of nowhere. So, what do you do with the shirt? You can trash it, or toss it in the rag pile, or you can cover those holes and recycle the shirt. Small buttons work just as well as these cute little flower decals I found.  Each one the flowers covers a pinpoint hole.

Share your recycling tips. 

Wishing you chocolate and happy and creative recycling.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chocolate Recipes are Everywhere

I dipped into the chocolate pot and pulled out the name of my winner from the Authors in Bloom Blog Hop.  Congratulations, Nancy. 

No one is a loser. I'm sharing my favorite Passover recipe for a flourless Chocolate Hazelnut cake as a thank you to everyone who participated in the hop. It's a great recipe for anytime of the year.

It's no secret that the Easter/Passover season is up there on the list of the big 4 of peak chocolate sales. Valentine's Day, Christmas, and Mother's Day each have a special chocolate associated with the day.

Right now, chocolate factories and stores are full of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. And what's Passover without matzoh - chocolate covered matzoh. 

In Chocolate Muse, Pastry Chef Maddie Higgins hits a downward spiral when a horrific review trashes her signature Torta di Chocolate. Maddie learns to trust and create again with help from the last man she ever wanted to see.

Here's the link to the recipe that inspired the story 

 I make it without the frosting and it's just fine. I like it with whipped cream or cool whip on top. My husband likes raspberries. What ever topping you decide on, the cake is delicious.


                                           Excerpt from Chocolate Muse
A half eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s melted on the floor next to Maddie Higgins' sofa. The reality TV show she had recorded the night before blared on the TV screen. If not for the loud banging on her door, Maddie would still be asleep.
“You in there Miss Higgins?” Her doorman pounded on the door. “I’ve got your mail. The mailman said you have to start taking out your mail.”
“Leave the mail, Matt.” Maddie sat up, stretched, and shouted at the bolted door. “I won’t do it again.”
Before shutting off the TV, she took a moment to commiserate with the contestants. If that one unfortunate turn of events in the script of her life had been part of a TV reality show, Zest’s former pastry chef, Maddie Higgins, would surely have been the star.
There were no hidden cameras that night and the unexpected incident had sent her tumbling from stardom. Would the culinary world ever forget her careless oversight? She couldn’t. The look on that man’s face after taking the first bite of her award winning torta di chocolate would have made good reality TV. Instead it left her spiraling in self-pity compounded by sleepless nights and an over indulgence in sweets.
If she had only known he had been there to review her most popular dessert, she might have been more diligent. Looking through the little round window, she had watched and had waited for the first sign of pleasure on the handsome customer’s face.
That’s when everything turned ugly. The expected smile of decadent satisfaction had melted into a cough and sputter. No one choked on her delicious desserts. Too late someone discovered the cause - soap powder mistaken for sugar.
Maddie and the kitchen crew searched for a hidden camera. They hoped an inconspicuous TV camera had accompanied the food critic and this was all a setup.
Paul, executive chef at Zest had no one else to blame. He dismissed her before the horrific review hit the morning papers. Instead of TV stardom Maddie found herself an unemployed pastry chef with a runaway culinary muse.
Even thought she hadn’t actually added the offensive powder, she knew when the chocolate hit the fan it would be aimed straight at her. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

When Life Gives You Stale Bread Make Chocolate Bread Pudding

Joining a group of authors/bloggers for 10 exciting days of recipes and garden tips. To be eligible for the grand prize ( a Nook or Kindle along with a $25 gift card for the same)  you must visit each and every author on the hop and leave a comment. Giveaway ends April 16th at 11:59 PM EST. Open to Legal Residents (18 years of age or older) of the US only. Prizes cannot be shipped to PO Boxes. Leave a comment and your email. Here's the link to the list of authors.


My giveaway includes a $10 DD gift card, recipes, and fun baking stuff. There's also a print copy of Chocolate Magic. One winner will be picked randomly at the end of the event.
 Open to Legal Residents (18 years of age or older) of the US only. Prizes cannot be shipped to PO Boxes. 

Here's the much anticipated recipe I promised to those of you who visited my blog yesterday.
In  CHOCOLATE COUTURE, my hero finds himself in a mess when his hard of hearing uncle orders too many hamburger buns. Lucky for Noah, Lily takes pity on him and offers a recipe for a delicious chocolate bread pudding. 

 I'm not a fan of bread pudding, but if you add chocolate I just might try it. I'm also a semi-homemade kind of baker which makes step 5 my favorite. It's okay to skip to that one if you'd prefer.
Here's a recipe from Real Simple.

Chocolate Bread Pudding


  1. Whisk the milk, eggs, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add the butter and chocolate and heat over low heat, stirring only until the butter and chocolate melt. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange the bread slices in 3 layers. Pour the chocolate sauce over the bread.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place another baking dish on top to weigh down the bread. Set aside for 1 hour to allow the bread to absorb the sauce. (Can be made to this point up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate.) Heat oven to 325° F.
  4. Remove the top baking dish and plastic. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes or until set. Serve warm with whipped cream.
  5. To fake It...and save 1 hour, 10 minutes:Thaw two 13-ounce packages frozen French toast and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes. Heat oven to 325° F. Lightly coat a 13-by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the toast in the dish. Beat 4 cups milk, one 12-ounce can chocolate syrup, and 2 eggs; pour over the toast. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and stir. Bake, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes longer or until set. Serve warm with canned whipped cream. Total time: 50 minutes.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Colors of Spring and Some Chocolate Too.

 I like to keep a copy of each recipe that inspired the recipes in my Love by Chocolate series. While preparing for tomorrow's  Authors in Bloom Blog Hop, I found a non- chocolate recipe, but it didn't make the cut. 

I hated not being able to share this colorful marshmallow angel food cake, so I decided to post it here instead. Here's my semi-homemade version. I used a bakery angel food cake, topped it with key lime frosting, and covered it with fruity marshmallow.  Not bad for an amateur. If you prefer to make it like a pro, here's the link to the from scratch recipe.

Here are some recipes I found in my file. Tomorrow I will post one these recipes as part of the Authors in Bloom blog hop. There will also be giveaways and prizes. Giveaway ends April 16th at 11:59 PM EST. Open to Legal Residents (18 years of age or older) of the US only. Prizes cannot be shipped to PO Boxes.  For more details go to http://diannevenetta.com/events/authors-in-bloom-blog-hop/

In Chocolate Couture, hearts melt and emotions sizzle when pastry chef Lily Peradou shares her chocolate bread pudding recipe with the King of Burgers and Fries.

In Chocolate Muse, all Maddie's problems start when a critic chokes on her chocolate di torta.

In Chocolate Magic, Chloe makes a wicked cup of hot chocolate.
In Chocolate Secrets, Mike a NYC firefighter bakes a decadent chocolate cake.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ever Have One of Those Days?

Today an old friend posted on fb about the trials and tribulations of her airline experience. She arrived at the gate and discovered the flight was overbooked. She accepted another flight with an upgrade. On her way there her long skirt got caught in the escalator.  OMG, can you imagine. Luckily she was wearing bike pants underneath. Not exactly a silver lining, but one that worked. To add to the mayhem,  of course her upgraded flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem.

The bright side of her experience is her ability to laugh at the whole thing and the inspiration for this blog.

In Chocolate Couture, my heroine, Lily is a talented, but klutzy pastry chef. The book opens with Lily having an experience that could ruin her day, but there is a bright side.
Read an excerpt.

LILY PERADOU WATCHED as a tray of her lime- elderflower cupcakes toppled to the floor. Like a line of ballerinas falling into an orchestra pit, two-dozen of her most popular pastries now lay at her feet.
“Oh, Chef. What a mess.” Olivia, her assistant looked down at the floor. “I tried to warn you. It all happened so fast.” Friends and co-workers, embarrassed by Lily’s clumsiness, often tried to minimize the experience with excuses.
Lily knew better, she had no one to blame. She had caused the cupcakes’ demise. “I’ll clean up. You open the shop.”
Olivia stepped over the squished chocolate cakes and inched her way between Lily and the prep counter. A plethora of pans and mixing bowls hung from every available inch of wall space. Ovens, coolers, and baking appliances covered the opposite wall. In this cramped, but organized narrow kitchen, Lily managed to create the finest cakes in Brooklyn.
The shop at 41⁄2 Smith Street would be considered limiting to anyone. No one suspected that the showcases filled with the sweetest desserts ever created held hidden dangers for a klutz like Lily.Many years ago her brother, Zach had appropriately nicknamed her Clum, a sticky matter in the universe that makes things go wrong. Being near Lily had the potential of a dormant volcano waiting to erupt. This morning’s big bang proved that not much had changed since that day when he bestowed the name on her.
This was not the time to think about past events. The mess at her feet needed immediate attention. She reached over the fallen sweets and grabbed her broom and dustpan. In minutes, the work-area sparkled.
Miraculously, two halves of the cupcake hung precariously at the edge of the counter. Lily worked best under pressure. Could she still make something out of this mess?
Her customers would soon be lining up for what they had voted Brooklyn’s Best Cupcake. She needed to do something fast. It might not be what they were expecting, but she wouldn’t disappoint them.
She cut the remaining pieces into bite-sized servings and placed a delicate slice of lime on each piece. A drizzle of elderberry juice over the top completed the free samples. That should satisfy her elderberry addicts until the next batch hit the shelves later in the day.
Before joining Olivia at the front counter, she carried the trash out the back door to the dumpster.
Lingering winter weather greeted her as she hurried outside. At first glance, the alley appeared like any other dusty Brooklyn alley. A closer look revealed it was more than another deserted street hidden behind rows of old buildings.
This alley had personality. Graffiti covered walls revealed the history of the merchants behind the brick facades. Before
Lily owned her shop, several movie crews used the street and its hidden artwork as a backdrop. It was not unusual for tourists to come searching for this back street.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed a man poking around the back door of 5 Smith Street. The old gray brick wall around the door was decorated with abstract designs of women’s fashions. It marked the back entrance to the late Sally James’ popular dress shop.
The man jiggled the door handle. It was locked, of course.
Maybe he was a relative of Sally’s. If he were related, she would like to talk to him and make an offer for the store. The perfect solution for her space problem was 5 Smith Street.
Dwarfed by the giant metal container, Lily felt a temporary sense of security. She used her advantage to assess the situation and the stranger. He didn’t look like a tourist. There was no sign of a camera or guidebook. He didn’t walk with a leisurely stroll of someone sightseeing. His stride was with purpose.
Was he a thief? If he were, he was a neatly dressed thief. But his shiny leather cowboy boots looked out of place on this Brooklyn street. Stylishly worn jeans hugged all the right places. His face was handsome, definitely not the look of an axe murderer. There was something ridiculously sexy about him.