Simple Valentine’s Day Treat- Dark Chocolate Brigadeiros

My oldest child, my only daughter is turning 11 in a few days.  At the cusp of her tween years, she already acts like a full-fledged tween.  We are having our first sleepover for more than just one or two kids- 6 girls…  I am bracing myself for impact already. Darby (my card carrying tween and resident chocoholic) has requested one thing in her birthday “retainer”, and that is a giant plate of Brazilian Brigadeiros.  I had made them as part of a giant dessert table at her 9th birthday, and apparently she has been dreaming about them ever since.

Darbys 9th birthday party table
Darby’s 9th birthday dessert table. Ooh-la-la!

Brigadeiros are truly the stuff of dreams.  Rich, chocolates, buttery, and chewy- They kind of remind me of a cross between a gooey caramel and a chocolate tootsie roll, only softer and coated in sprinkles.

Luckily for me (and you), Brigadeiros are super simple and inexpensive to make, and are the PERFECT Valentine’s Day treat for your sweetheart(s).  Forget the box of $50 chocolate truffles.  A homemade gift that looks impressive and tastes like you slaved over it, will be much more appreciated.  Plus, they are Brazilian, which makes you seems worldly and sophisticated.  Nuff said.

Start with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons “good quality” dark cocoa powder (in Brazil, they use milk chocolate powder, but this is my version!), and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ingredients for our Brigadeiros

I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute, but any dark cocoa powder will do.  This delicious and useful stuff is available on Amazon, if you are interested.

Cacao Barry Extra Brute for our Brigadeiros

Then you just whisk this mixture continuously, and I do mean don’t step away, for 12-15 minutes on Medium-low heat until mixture thickens dramatically and starts to pull away from the sides when whisked.  It will get slightly hard to wisk (great arm workout!) toward the end.  Mixture will firm up more once cooled.

Whisk the Brigadeiros

Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract off the heat, and whisk again.  Remove the mixture to separate bowl and stash in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

The finished mixture for our Brigadeiros

Next, once the mixture is cool enough to touch (might still be slightly warm), scoop tablespoon balls of the chocolatey goodness.  Roll each ball in any type of sprinkle you like…Coconut, nuts, or cocoa powder would also work (but we are nut-free around here).  I usually roll them again in my hands after the sprinkles go on, just to make them perfectly round.

The Brigadeiros should be perfectly round balls

These were the sprinkles I used.  That is it!  Easy as can be.  Serve them in little mini-cupcake liners.  Adorable.  You can store them covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

The Brigadeiros are finished

Beautiful Brazillian Brigadeiros

Snow Day Soup!

Here in Northern Virginia, today is a snow day.  The kids are home from school, it is super chilly (even inside), and all I want is my favorite Snow Day Soup and some crusty bread for dinner.  There is some backstory to this soup.

It is not chef-inspired, it has some fresh and some frozen and pre-packaged ingredients, and I am not going to apologize for that.  This is basically a streamlined version of the soup my mom made throughout my childhood.  It is especially memorable, because it was one of the few dishes that she made that was truly delightful.  That alone made it stand out, but it also always followed a trip to the kosher meat market, which was my favorite thing to do…ever.  While I would stand at the meat counter, gazing at the giant beef tongues wagging at me from inside the chilled case, my mom would ask the butcher for the “flanken.”  I am not really sure what the literal translation of this is, but I am pretty sure the Yiddish means the scraps from the better cuts of meat or more probably the meat from the flank of the animal…. The tough cuts that you have to cook for a very long time, so that they will magically transform into fall-apart tender chunks of savory goodness.  Anyway, we always called this soup “Flanken soup,” and it was an event that everyone looked forward to after our monthly pilgrimage to Maryland to buy our kosher meat.  The gigantic poppyseed Hamentaschen from the bakery was my other favorite, but I digress.

The other reason I wanted to share this recipe, is that I wanted to create kind of a tribute to Manischewitz.  You see, I was just lucky enough to win a contest that they offered for one of their products…a do-it-yourself Channukah House Kit.  Thank you so much to Manischewitz!  I am so honored.  Here is my Chanukah House:

Lauren Katz Manischewitz gingerbread house

Anyway, while I was writing back and forth to the company, I realized that many of my early food memories involved their products.  Which brought me to my favorite memory of all…”Flanken Soup”.  It features Manischewitz’s Split Pea soup mix, and sometimes the vegetable soup mix, or both!  You see, this recipe is fluid and flexible, and you can play with it to make it your own.

First, you cube your meat into large but kind-of bite sized pieces.  I used a chuck roast here, but shortribs or stew meat works well.  Note that the fattier the meat, the better.  You don’t want to use lean stew meat…. Do trim any large pieces of fat, however.

Snow Day Soup Ingredients

Here are the soup mixes:  This is for a HUGE pot of snow day soup. If you want to make a smaller amount, just use one split pea soup mix.  These are easily found in the kosher section of almost every grocery store.

Snow Day Soup Mixes

Another gratuitous meat shot!  Approximately 2 lbs, but you could use more or less, depending on how many people you are feeding.

Snow Day Soup Meat

Brown the meat in your soup pot in a little oil on high heat.  If you are in a rush, you can skip this step, but I highly recommend it.

Snow Day Soup Meat Cooked

Cut up your potato (1 large), mushroom (about 10 ounces), and carrot (about 1-2 cups).  I like the mushrooms diced, but sliced works as well.  Baby carrots are fine- sometimes I leave them whole, sometimes not.  Waxy potatoes work well, but I only had a russet today.

Snow Day Soup Veggies

Put them all in the pot, with a couple of bay leaves, a small bag of frozen cut green beans (use fresh if you want, but it will all come out the same in the end…), the split pea soup mix (with the seasoning packet, and the veggie soup mix (I did not add the small pouch of noodles, but everything else).  I added a bit of leftover Lima beans that I had kicking around, but that is optional.

Snow Day Soup Veggies cooked

Now, fill her up with water.  You want it to cover all the meat and veggies plus an extra 2 inches or so.  It will seem watery, but when the peas cook, it will thicken quite a bit.  This is almost more of a stew or porridge consistency when done.

Snow Day Soup In the pot

Once it come up to a simmer, cover for about an hour.  Stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Keep pot uncovered and at a low simmer for about 3-4 hours, or as long as possible!  Stir it occasionally.  Season with a ton of black pepper and salt, to taste.  The soup mix has salt in it, so you usually don’t need much (if any at all).

Snow Day Soup ready to serve

Okay, so this is kind of a homey/homely rustic looking stew, but take my word for it.  It is delicious!  Better the second day, if there are leftovers.  It is a full dinner and very hearty, so enjoy with some crusty bread or biscuits and you are done.  Enjoy!

Snow Day Soup. Yum!

P.s.  You could make this in a large crockpot on high, if you put it in early in the morning, and cook it uncovered for the second half of the day.