One Year Anniversary & New Blog Name!

For most, today is simply June 23rd. School’s out, the weather is warmer, and it feels like the beginning of an endless summer. However for me, today marks the one year anniversary of the day I started this food blog. What began simply as a way to keep up with my writing last summer quickly turned into something that I truly love to do. 

When I started my blog, I decided to name it after one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. As the opening line of Twelfth Night, “If music be the food of love, play on” was a nod to both my love of food and my love of literature. It was a way for me to combine my two passions into one, and document my journey through food as an English major.

However, now that I’ve (very recently) graduated, I feel like it’s time to mark this new phase of my life with a new name for my blog: A Little Bit of Chocolate. I won’t be converting this into a dessert blog, nor will I limit myself to recipes that only include chocolate—although both options would be equally and sinfully delicious. Instead, I’ll keep cooking and baking in the same way that I always have, but the new name will represent my outlook on life as a twenty-something-year-old trying to navigate the real world. To me, life is too beautiful to live with restriction and limitation. Explore the world, give in to your cravings (whatever they may be), enjoy the little things, and treat yourself to just A Little Bit of Chocolate.

Keep an eye out for more recipes as the summer continues to unfold. Thank you to all of my readers for your support. I have been blessed with a following of friends, family, and fellow food lovers who crave and love the delightful world of food as much as I do.

Much love,

Lauren

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 This chocolate bar came from the Chocoholic chocolate store in Bruges, Belgium

Pizookie!

It’s finals week, which can only mean one thing for me: baking! As you can see from my previous post about How I Studied for Finals last year, my favorite thing to do when I get overwhelmed by studying for tests and writing papers is to put everything down and head to the kitchen. 

There’s just something so satisfying for me about trading in my worries about grades and assignments for complete control in the kitchen. While I don’t know what will happen if I only turn in a 6 page paper when 7 were assigned, I know exactly what will happen if I only add part of the baking soda to a cookie dough recipe—flat and sad results!

This particular recipe is great when you want to make cookies in a rush, which is perfect for finals week. I can procrastinate some, but I can’t get too carried away! It is also equally wonderful when you just feel like making one giant cookie. The name “pizookie” is a combination of “pizza” and “cookie,” and comes from the famous dessert at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. You can order one giant cookie that is baked in one of their deep-dish pizza pans and topped with a generous helping of ice cream. At home, pizookies are a great way to save time in the baking process, and they make for a whole new cookie experience. Enjoy!

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Pizookie

  • 1 regular cookie recipe (I used my Cherry Chocolate Chip recipe, but anything will work!)
  • 2 cake pans
  • Extra butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two cake pans with butter to make sure your prized pizookies don’t stick. Make your chosen cookie dough according to the recipe. Spread dough in the pans to desired thickness (mine were about an inch thick). Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your pizookies are and how “done” you like them. If your pizookie is starting to turn too brown around the edges but isn’t done, cover the pans with foil for the remainder of the cooking. Let cool on cooling racks for about 10 minutes. Remove the pizookies from the pans if desired (you can just leave ’em in there too if you like). Serve warm and top with ice cream. Store in a plastic bag or in plastic wrap to keep fresh. You can reheat the pizookies in the oven or microwave for later indulgence.

Grilled Peaches

Summer is so close I can almost taste it! The grocery stores are bountiful with summer produce and everyone’s minds (including mine) seem to be wandering off into the future months of sunny days, warm evenings, weekend trips to the beach, and endless amounts of froyo. 

One thing I love about summer is how perfectly it goes with a good ol’ backyard BBQ. Most people usually associate meat and fish with the grill, but you can pretty much throw anything on it for quick cooking and delicious flavor. You can grill veggies, bread, pizza, avocado, quesadillas, and—yes—even fruit!

Now, I know it might sound strange to put something sweet on the grill, but grilling fruit actually intensifies its flavor and brings out its natural sweetness. I used peaches for this recipe, but you can grill pineapple, lemons and limes, apples, watermelon, or bananas (best when sliced in half, stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips, and wrapped in foil). So far I’ve only tried peaches, but I’m super excited to give them all a try!

I topped my grilled peaches with almonds, pecans, and a drizzle of honey. While they looked delicious, I thought they were a little too plain in the flavor department. I therefore made a sweeter version by topping the peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and also tried a savory version by adding a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Both variations were so delicious, I couldn’t decide which one I like better. Enjoy!

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Grilled Peaches

  • Fresh peaches, halved and pitted
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil or other light oil
  • A few handfuls of almonds or pecans
  • Honey
  • Vanilla ice cream or balsamic vinegar (optional)

Preheat your grill or grill-pan to medium heat. Brush both sides of the halved peaches with oil. Grill for about 5 minutes per side, or until they have nice grill marks and the fruit is warmed through and slightly softened. Place peaches on a plate skin side down. Top with nuts and drizzle with honey. Optional variations include a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of each peach or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the top of each one. Choose one optional ingredient depending on whether you want a sweeter or more savory dessert.

My First “Catering” Experience

I am very excited to share about my first ever catering experience! I wasn’t exactly hired for a job, but my good friend, Gina, asked me to make some desserts for her art show opening reception at school a few weeks ago. She told me I could make whatever kind of cookies I wanted, as long as there were about 4-5 dozen in total. Naturally, my initial reaction was: “Absolutely!” and I went straight to work brainstorming what goodies I should make for her.

In my utter zeal about baking up some delicious cookies for Gina’s show, I decided to make 5 different desserts—4 cookies and 1 brownie. I went with a variety of my biggest crowd pleasers: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Cherry Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Almond (recipe coming soon!), Snickerdoodles, and Guinness Brownies with Bailey’s Buttercream.

Looking back, I may have gotten a little overambitious with my baking. Although I should have been doing schoolwork instead of spending a few afternoons and evenings in the kitchen whipping up an array of desserts, it was worth every minute to see the happy faces of Gina and her friends and family as they celebrated her beautiful artwork. It was an honor to be a part of her achievement, even if it was as simple as providing some sweet treats for the show.

This “catering” job was also a wonderful way to remind myself that if you love what you do, and I truly do love to bake, then any time you spend doing it is time well spent.

xx

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Front Row: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Almond

Middle Row: Guinness Brownies with Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting

Back Row: Cherry Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodles

Watermelon, Strawberry, and Mint Salad

We had some sweltering temperatures in California this week, but this salad was the perfect way to cool off. Chilled watermelon is a go-to summertime snack because of its refreshing nature, but this recipe takes refreshment to a whole new level. The strawberries add a more potent sweetness, while the mint boosts the flavor and adds a wonderful aromatic quality to the dish. I always find myself grabbing a fork and eating it right out of the bowl the minute I finish making it—it’s that good.  

This salad is also a great way to cool off in a healthier way. Popsicles and ice cream bars, though they are undeniably delicious, are also high in sugar. While this salad does have natural sugars from the fruit, the ingredients are in their whole form, meaning it will actually fill you up. Plus, the fruit has only been washed and cut instead of processed into a popsicle form. It’s a win-win situation all around!

I love making this recipe because it only takes a few minutes to prepare, and then you can be on your way to quick relief from the heat. Give this salad a try and fill up your plate with a refreshing treat!

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Watermelon, Strawberry, and Mint Salad

  • 1 watermelon, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 pound strawberries, washed and diced
  • 20-30 mint leaves, roughly chopped (you can adjust the amount to your liking)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. For best results, chill salad thoroughly in the fridge before serving. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

“Caprese” Salad with Avocado

With summertime on its way, I thought I would celebrate a little early with a fresh salad that I always associate with the warm days of the summer season. One of my favorite parts about the season are heirloom tomatoes, which have started to crop up in grocery stores. They come in a beautiful variety of colors and sizes, and have a wonderfully sweet flavor. Pair them with fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese, and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and you’ve got a simple, yet delicious dish.

However, as a non-dairy eater, I have sadly been plagued with the inability to eat cheese—tragic, I know. Although my life can no longer be blessed with sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella, and smoked gouda goodness, there are plenty of cheese and dairy alternatives that can help fill the gaps in my heart that come from following a non-dairy diet.

One of those alternatives is avocado. Avocados have a wonderful creamy texture that, when paired with their naturally rich taste, can almost match the texture and quality of cheese. Plus, avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat (the good fat!). I therefore decided to create my own “caprese” salad by substituting avocado for the fresh mozzarella. No, it won’t have the same classic taste of a traditional caprese salad, but it comes pretty close! Besides, I don’t see any point in denying myself from enjoying a delicious dish simply because my body cannot tolerate dairy. That’s the beauty of homemade food—you can tailor everything to your personal needs.

I hope this post inspires you to modify a recipe that allows you to embrace any of your food allergies or preferences instead of fighting them. Happy eating!

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“Caprese” Salad with Avocado

  • Heirloom tomatoes, sliced (I used mini heirloom tomatoes, but regular ones will work just as well!)
  • Ripe avocado, sliced or cubed
  • Fresh basil (chopped or left whole)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

As you can see, I left out the quantities in this recipe because it completely depends on how big of a salad you want to make. Just be sure there is a 1:1 ratio of tomatoes to avocado, and that there is plenty of fresh basil to have some in every bite (either whole leaves or chopped pieces). I also didn’t measure the olive oil or balsamic vinegar, but simply drizzled them over the top of the arranged ingredients. Once everything is plated, add salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately to prevent the avocado from browning process. If you plan to make the salad ahead of time, squeeze some lemon juice over the avocados before plating to slow down the browning. Of course, you can also use fresh mozzarella cheese and make a real caprese salad!

Mom’s Lemon Oregano Chicken

My mom has been making this recipe for years, and it never fails to impress family and friends. It’s super easy to make and guarantees a delicious and healthy meal. I’m pretty sure she just made it up one day, and boy am I glad that such beautiful thoughts go through her mind.

I love this recipe because the marinade keeps the chicken moist and juicy, and infuses it with perfectly matched flavors. The oregano has a citrusy quality that is complemented by the lemon juice and zest, while the fresh garlic brings an extra zing to each bite. All together, the chicken is fresh, fragrant, flavorful, and is sure to be the star of any meal.

This chicken marinade is especially wonderful because of its versatility. You can marinate the chicken overnight or right before you cook it, and it can be used as a preparation for grilled, oven-roasted, or pan-cooked chicken. It also has a mild enough flavor that it can be paired with a variety of sides. This time, I oven-roasted the chicken and served it with sautéed asparagus and roasted sweet potatoes. However, my absolute favorite way to prepare this chicken is to grill it and serve it with some grilled veggies and John’s Garlic Rosemary Potatoes. Enjoy!

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Mom’s Lemon Oregano Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken (3-4 chicken breasts)
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest, dried oregano (crush the leaves gently between your fingers first to release the flavor), and salt and pepper. Mix the marinade to combine and taste it to check for flavor. If you plan to grill or pan-cook the chicken, marinate it in a separate dish or a plastic bag. If you’re going to oven-roast the chicken, simply pour the marinade directly over it in the pan and cook together. For best results, marinate the chicken overnight. If you don’t have enough time, letting the chicken marinate for even 5 minutes before cooking will boost the flavor. Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes before cutting to maximize juiciness.