Tag Archives: chocolate

A little more aloha

Besides the moonsets, what else captivated us in Hawaii? More nature! More science!

We visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The island of Hawaii is made up of five volcanoes, and you never forget that you’re on them. Halema’uma’u Crater in the center of Kilauea Caldera continues to smoke.

Halema'uma'u Crater

And the edge of caldera continues to steam. The heat under the ground makes the rainwater in the cracks steam.

Caldera steam

We had a pretty ambitious day planned, and got to do most of it. We took a short (2.5 mile) hike that took us around the edge of the caldera, and down to the caldera floor.

Kilauea Caldera

cairn

Cairns mark the trail. I love how little plants have sprouted in the cracks on the floor, tiny attempts at new life. There’s actually a trail that crosses the caldera, but it’s been closed for years because it’s not safe.

We took a stroll through the Thurston Lava Tube. It was actually underwhelming, but out of the oncoming rain! No pic; it was over almost before it began.

We drove to the end of the Chain of Craters Road. Why is it the end? Lava overran the road in 2003. So cool that nature has her way.

lava road
Looking west back towards the usable road…

road closed
Looking east. Road closed, indeed.

Hōlei Sea Arch is here, too. You’re 90 feet above the water; don’t lean too far out over the edge to see it!

Holei sea arch

I’m not sure why there’s a lone stand of palm trees near here; I tried googling but didn’t come up with a definitive answer.

end of road palms

I wanted to visit the petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa, but it was near dark when we left the end of the road. And it gets really dark. No lights on the road, and it was raining, too. My biggest regret? I forgot that I wanted to see Halema’uma’u Crater glowing in the dark! I guess I’ll have to go back, soon.

We went snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach the next day. This is the easiest snorkel spot, ever. You can walk into the water and see fish, but they really look better if you put your mask on. Lots of honu (sea turtles) visit here, too.

honu kiss

They’ve named this fellow Rocky. Maybe he’s the same one I saw in January.

rocky

We toured a chocolate farm, Original Hawaiian Chocolate. This is the first chocolate venture to go from farm to chocolate bar in Hawaii. Single origin Hawaiian chocolate, mmmmm. Cacao pods form from tiny flowers on the wood of the trees.

green cacao

cacao

They come in different colors, but they all make chocolate. Inside the pod, the beans are covered with a white sticky substance. Geckos find it delicious.

geckos

We like the part from the inside!

chocolate vat

We also visited Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, or Place of Refuge. In olden times, if you had broken the strict kapu laws, you could be put to death…unless you made it to the pu’uhonua first. My family thought of it as “base,” and they felt a need to visit. Feeling guilty?

Base!

Safe!

Last sunset…

sunset

And remember how I said that you never forget that you’re sitting on a volcano? Our last evening there we felt a disturbance, unnerving enough that I checked with the US Geological Survey’s site. A 3.2 earthquake, off the coast. Just a little rumble.

earthquake

Back home, and back to knitting!

Pinot and Piano…and stellar desserts

My home was filled with gorgeous music on Sunday evening. The sixth annual Pinot and Piano Fun-Raiser brought together three musicians, 16 guests, and wine and dessert. I don’t play my piano much these days, so it’s nice to hear it played by someone else. For this event, I’m in charge of the venue, a freshly tuned grand piano, and dessert.

We had two intermissions; the first one featured this simple dessert (regular wine glass shown for size reference):

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Mini blueberry cheesecake shooters. I adapted The Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters recipe, and topped it with my blueberry compote using this summer’s blueberries from my yard. These mini wine tasting glasses hold just enough, and look fabulous. Full recipe at the bottom of this post.

The second intermission featured a buffet of chocolate chip shortbread, brownies, fruit salad, and one other sensational dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate glaze.

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I wanted a gluten-free option on the menu, but this cake is so good that the GF status is just a bonus. This was easy, elegant, and delicious. I used a 9 inch cake pan, because I didn’t have a 7 inch tart pan. I reduced the baking time to 19 minutes (start checking at 15) to compensate for the wider, shallower pan. The recipe says it serves six, but it would easily serve 12 as a single dessert. We cut 20 slices, since it was part of a dessert buffet.

The music for piano solo and duet, and piano and flute, ranged from Bach to Handel to Grieg to Mendelssohn to the Beatles.

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A lovely evening among friends.

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Mother/Daughter duet. And since this is a knitting blog, I’ll note that designer Chrissy Gardiner is the daughter. She has many talents!

Blueberry Cheesecake Shooters
adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters

Make the blueberry compote the night before, and refrigerate.

For the blueberry compote:
2.5 cups frozen blueberries, unthawed
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C water
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine 1.5 C berries with the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Add remaining berries and lemon juice. Continue stirring; cook until compote thickens, about 8 minutes. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Serve warm, room temperature, cold, whatever! You’ll have enough left over to top ice cream, or pancakes…

For the cheesecake (same day, or night before):
12 whole graham cracker rectangles
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (to taste)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor, or place them in a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Gradually add the melted butter and process or mix until crumbs begin to cling together. Spoon this “crust” into serving dishes: mini wine glasses, wine glasses, whatever you’d like.

Combine cream cheese,sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip until fluffy. Place mixture into a resealable plastic bag, cut off a corner and pipe mixture over graham cracker crumbs.

Spoon blueberry compote over the cheesecake mixture. Top with sliced almonds just before serving. Enjoy!

Yield: 12 servings in mini wine glasses, fewer if you’re using larger dishes. I used Libbey’s mini wine tasting glasses. They’d also be cute in little half cup canning jars.

Nothing to see here…

I’m knitting away on a couple of projects, but nothing I can show you right now. How about if you look at this instead?

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My friend, ex-co-worker and fellow Day Old Pastry Joanne gave me this lovely box of Alma chocolates. They are gorgeous, and taste even better than they look. The flavors: Thai peanut butter cup (ginger, lime, Thai chiles, red volcanic sea salt), Mexican chocolate truffle (chile de Arbol & cinnamon), Bourbon (the copper colored one), Habanero crown, Deux pistaches, mint diamond, salted peanut butter cup, whiskey caramel, Sabrina (fig/marzipan), rosemary fleur-de-lis. Can you match the description to the chocolate?

The occasion? I was honored in church last Sunday for my work there over the past 10 years. I “retired” in June; the Teen’s graduation and our impending empty nest made me feel like it was time for a change. I’m now spending more time at my knitting activities: designing, teaching, blogging, tech editing. I love it!

We have an addition to our Kindle family. Yes, DH is a kindle junkie. Big old Kindle goes to CollegeGrad. The middle one is mine; DH gave it to me for my birthday last year. The new little one belongs to DH. Do you think he’ll get a Kindle Fire when it comes out? Place your bets!

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And because I can’t leave you without your daily dose of fiber:

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Don’t they look like cupcakes and frosting?

Some enchanted evening

Piano and pinot was grand!

I love the whole process of a party, cleaning the house, getting out the nice china, crystal, and silver, setting the table. It’s like playing dress-up with the house.

table

The event was a fund raiser, and we served 12 different pinot wines: a sparkling white pinot, pinot gris, pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot meuniere, a rose (sorry, don’t know how to find the accent mark), and some sweet late harvest dessert wines. All were from local Willamette Valley vineyards: Brick House, LaVelle, Penner-Ash, Willakenzie, Winter’s Hill. My favorite was the LaVelle sparkling wine, but I’m a bubbly girl. No picture of the wine-laden buffet; I forgot.

Desserts included cheesecake, cream puffs, a raspberry/blueberry tart, and a dark chocolate and raspberry cake. Yes, that’s a gravy boat on the table, but it’s filled with chocolate sauce. Recipe at the bottom of this post.

Our pianist played Bach (C# prelude and fugue), Mendelssohn (Song without Words), Debussy (first Arabesque, Clair de Lune, La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin, Golliwog’s Cakewalk), Grieg (Andante from a sonata), Rocherolle, and more. She was fabulous!

pianist

This picture was taken before we put the lid on the high prop stick. The piano sounded glorious; it was such a treat to hear someone else play it. The sound experience is different out in the room; I’m used to hearing it just from the bench.

I have a fridge full of leftover wines and desserts, and I get to enjoy a still-clean house!

In other news, remember how I mentioned that the squirrel had won the bird-feeder battle? It turns out that he has a friend. I saw them taking turns at the bird feeder. I chased one off, and while he was on the telephone pole, the other one appeared. They’re pretty brazen; they don’t mind me taking pictures from fairly close range.

onan2

onan1

I’ve figured out how Onan and Conan access the feeder. They jump from the trellis on the front of the house onto the top of the feeder pole. It’s about five feet, laterally. No problem for these guys!

Here’s the recipe for the chocolate sauce:

Chocolate Sauce

24 oz semi-sweet belgian chocolate chips
One pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks and softened

Five 8 ounce jelly jars

Place the chocolate chips into a large heat-proof mixing bowl; place the bowl over a large pot filled with hot water. Let the chocolate melt as you proceed with the recipe.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the butter until blended. Ladle the sauce into jars; cool completely before screwing on lids. Store in the refrigerator (all that butter and cream!). Scoop out the sauce as desired and warm it on low power in the microwave. Or eat it by the spoonful directly from the jar. ;-)

Makes about 5 cups