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Entries in dark chocolate (2)

Sunday
Dec182011

Candy Cane Popcorn

Candy Cane Popcorn Candy Cane Popcorn Candy Cane Popcorn

One of my neighbors really loves to go all out when lighting their home for the holidays. They don't just throw up a half dozen strings of light and call it good. Oh, certainly not. I can only believe they used the home from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for inspiration and took the idea two (or ten) steps further. The home is truly a sight to behold. It puts my own house (and every other house in the neighborhood) to shame.

Fair warning: you may need sunglasses.

House of Lights House of Lights House of Lights House of Lights

Starting back in September, the family starts preparing the holiday lights. They begin building frames out of wood and pvc pipe to string with lights. Gradually over the weeks, more and more frames start popping up in the yard and, though the lights remain unlit, you can feel the festive storm begin to brew.

As Christmas approaches, the lights start to sparkle. Almost daily, the sheer amount of lights seem to double as the family rushes to get as many strings up as they can. The Chmielewski family truly expresses and wants to share the Christmas spirit with everyone they meet. They don't go through all of the months of work to set up the display just for themselves. Their wish is very simple. They just want to bring a little more holiday magic to everyone who takes a walk by their brightly lit home.

House of Lights House of Lights House of Lights House of Lights

What these photos don't show you: the lights are far brighter than my camera could ever capture, the flashing and flickering of lights on everything from the roof to the evergreen trees, the rotating Ferris wheel as it spins around carrying stuffed versions of our favorite holiday characters, the Christmas music singing loudly as it fills the air, the miniature bake shop selling everything from your favorite holiday cookies and bars to steaming cups of hot cocoa and warm hot dogs, a holly jolly Santa Claus greeting everyone who comes along to visit, and the friendly smiles and awe-struck faces of the small children walking through the sidewalk wonderland.

The home is perhaps the one and only home to ever feature three yeti (one of which is larger than life). It hosts half a dozen Kris Kringles and spans all holiday genres from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to The Little Drummer Boy. I love how the Bethlehem star not only guides the wise men to the multiple nativity scenes they have set up in the yard, but it brings in the holiday visitors from miles around as the star leads them to this special place. Is it garish? Certainly. But I can't deny it had me (and everyone else) smiling from ear to ear.

Candy Cane Popcorn

And my favorite part? They take donations for charity in a lovely, well-lit box. Upon first glance, I wondered if the charity might be their own electric bill but, after asking a few questions, I found out just the opposite. Last year the money they collected went to help local residents who can't quite afford to keep their own lights (and heat) on during the winter season.

I can't imagine a more fitting cause.

Candy Cane Popcorn Candy Cane Popcorn

This Candy Cane Popcorn snack mix is as addictive as it is colorful. Popcorn, by nature, has more protein than any other cereal grain, more iron than spinach, more phosphorous than pretzels, and almost as much fiber as bran flakes. It's a super food. By simply coating the popcorn with a drizzle of white and dark chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed candy canes, it turns the popcorn into a decadent tasting sweet that's good for you at the same time! This is the ideal 100 calorie snack to zap your chocolate cravings without indulging in something you may regret later. It's also a perfect dish to bring to parties!

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Thursday
Jun022011

Roasted Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies

Roasted Cherry Bittersweet Brownies

Inspiration can arrive without a moment's notice. Like a lighting bolt illuminating the sky and racing towards the ground, inspiration strikes equally. When I am inspired with a new and unique idea, it hits like a punch to the gut, all-encompassing and demanding attention. True inspiration isn't just a light bulb switching on above your head. It is too powerful. If true inspiration struck, the light bulb would burst into a fireworks display that would light up the night sky.

These brownies were my inspiration.

Roasted Cherry Bittersweet Brownies

Rarely am I struck out of the blue with unique and delicious ideas. Chances are you've already eaten most of the recipes I feature on this blog, or a variation thereof. You may not have set out to make them yourself, but I find that it's hard to surprise people with a new take on an old recipe or idea. That's not to say I certainly don't try to keep you on your toes and surprise you once in awhile. I'm just saying it's difficult to re-invent the chocolate chip cookie.

When I got the idea for these brownies, I immediately went to the internet to see if it had been done before and with any luck. There are recipes for dark chocolate brownies, brownies with dried cherries, and brownies with cherry preserves. Combining cherry and dark chocolate certainly isn't a new idea, but no one, as far as I can tell, has ever put roasted cherries in a brownie and decided to share the tale.

Let me tell you, this needs to be remedied as soon as possible.

Roasted Cherry Bittersweet Brownies

Roasted Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies are like brownies sent down from the dessert gods themselves. The dark chocolate base of these brownies is so unbelievably moist and decadent. As soon as the brownie hits your tongue, it melts into a gooey, chocolaty mess that sticks to the roof of your mouth like a spoonful of peanut butter. When combined with the rich sweetness of caramelized roasted cherries (like in this ice cream), you might feel tears come to your eyes. These really are that good. I would never lie to you about something so serious as a good, quality dessert. These are the best brownies I have ever eaten (and I've eaten some good ones).

No one in my house can get these brownies off of their minds and, several times a day, someone will sneak up with a fork to subtly steal a bite (or ten). You will want a tall glass of milk with these. Oh, and another brownie.

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