Homemade Nutella and Gratitude

Chocolate and hazelnuts, beautifully blended

Chocolate and hazelnuts, beautifully blended

I am overwhelmingly grateful when anyone visits LuvCooks. I am blown away when someone sees a recipe and makes it (shout out to @laurietindol!) and astounded when another blogger mentions the site in one of their posts.

Recently Rachel at Derivative Dishes nominated LuvCooks for a Liebster award. Having no idea what a Liebster award was, I embarrassingly asked her about the stipulations for this prize. It turns out it’s a great way to welcome and highlight other blogs in our Creative world. As part of the process, I was also asked to respond to a list of questions Rachel sent, then nominate other blogs I follow that should recieve the award.

I have so many talented friends, I wish that I could gather them all up and introduce you; my friend Melissa, who loves cats and can bake like nobody’s business. Or Stephen, whose ability to light and capture food astounds me. Or my boyfriend Jake whose Creative talent truly knows no bounds. But alas, the inter webs separate us, and this will have to do for now (unless someone comes up with the aforementioned posted magic carpet).

And, you should follow all of these wonderful people! Feeling Full, Jacob Blount, Stephen Devries Photography, Kinora Films,  Emily Cooks Vegan, Twin Days, Chew Out Loud, Create and Place, The Dreamery

Rachel’s questions:

  1.  What inspires you? Beauty! In all of it’s forms. And fun, and dancing. Lots of it.
  2.  Anthony Bourdain or Mario Batali? I am obsessed with Anthony Bourdain. As in, a day without No Reservations/The Layover/Parts Unknown is no way to live.
  3. What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had? I have a complete inability to hide the face I make when things taste bad. So more than likely I have blocked this meal out of my mind.
  4. What’s your favorite cookbook of all time? I adore cookbooks! My top three: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook , The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farms, and for her hilarious story-telling and all-around fabulousness Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen
  5. What are you looking forward to right now? A Mexican fiesta tonight at Señor Taco with my sister.
  6. What do you think about when you’re cooking? I think about the people I am cooking for. I love anticipating how they will respond to the food, and the simple joy of spending time with them.
  7. What is your favorite thing to cook? Baking. Brownies. Chocolate anything.
  8. What is the last great meal you had? I had a fantastic six-course meal and wine-pairing at Veranda in Birmingham‎, hosted by their sommelier and head chef. Braised shot ribs, quail- it was a dream.
  9. What have you not tried to cook but think you need to make? I need to figure out how to make Ossobuco. Because it sounds both fancy and delicious.
  10. What about the kitchen intimidates you? Other people’s kitchens intimidate me. As weird as that sounds, I feel so at home in my own, I always feel a bit unnerved in another persons’ space.
  11. What’s the most embarrassing kitchen moment you’ve ever had? Oh gracious, there are too many to count! Probably the time I was making boxed macaroni and cheese and caught a dish towel on fire.

Questions for my blogger pals:

1. What is your go-to comfort food?

2. French roast, Keurig, Chemex, pour-over, Nespresso, or drip (coffee)?

3. Your favorite kitchen condiment, go!

4. If you could have dinner with three people dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

5. Bizarre Foods or Chopped?

6. Number #1 reason why Alton Brown would help you make better life choices.

7. Your favorite holiday movie?

8. What is your biggest challenge in food-blogging?

9. What are four of your favorite online recipe resources?

10. Name your favorite season and it’s accompanying ingredient.

And finally, back to gratefulness: I am also consistently grateful for food, friends, and family, and this homemade chocolate hazelnut spread (aka Nutella) recipe encompasses all of these things. Nutella is one of life’s pleasures, and this recipe by Giada at Food Network is SO delicious. By roasting the hazelnuts in the skins before you blend them, it adds a whole new dimension to the roasted flavor of the spread, and the addition of quality melted chocolate and honey sweetens the deal. I made this for a friend of mine and could not keep my spoon out of the food processor (don’t worry Court, #nodoubledipping).  This is also a great addition to any New Year’s Eve spread. Serve it with chocolate or honey graham crackers, apple slices, or hot chocolate, or blend it into a post- New Year’s bash smoothie.

Cheers to the best year yet, and to more amazing tastes, friendships, and adventures in the year to come.

Homemade Nutella (taken from Giada’s version here)

What You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup skinned hazelnuts, toasted (about 4 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

What You Will Do

1. To toast your hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the hazelnuts (skins on) in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Bake them for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly toasted. (Just watch these; I baked mine for a little less time because they got toasted pretty quickly.) Cool completely, then rub the skins off with your fingers.

3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Put the bowl back in for 10-15 second intervals, stirring after every trip in the microwave, until smooth. Be careful to not overheat your chocolate; it can get angry and seize up on ya. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature.

4. Grind the nuts in a food processor until pasty (the nuts will be stuck to the sides of work bowl), 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.

5. Add the condensed milk, honey and salt. Blend well, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the cooled chocolate and pulse until combined. Transfer the spread to a small bowl.

6. Now try not to eat all of this in one sitting. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!




Chocolate Spice Cake with White Wine Berry Glaze

White Wine Cake

It’s holiday time! And you know what that means. Dust off that Kool and the Gang record, put on a Christmas scarf, and sing it with me, “Ce-le-brate good times, come on!” Now in your deepest Alto, “It’s a Celebration!”

And really, is there anything better than sparkly Christmas lights, fur trees loaded with ornaments, Elvis singing “Blue Christmas,” and drinking egg nog and/or hot chocolate like it’s your job? Truly, one of the most special times of the year.

And in that state of Christmas joy, I wanted to bake a chocolate cake that tasted like all of those wonderful Christmas feelings: warm and rich, with an unexpected flavor gift in the mix. And who better to parter with in this creative endeavor than uproot? Their Sauvignon Blanc is so versatile, it gave a bright flavor profile to chicken soup and this dessert. Especially perfect for the cinnamon-laced cake is the element of passion fruit the Sauvignon Blanc features- a perfect compliment to the blueberries and raspberries in the berry glaze.

Alright everybody, raise your eggnog-or uproot-glasses high to the best time of the year!

A slice of Christmas cheer

A slice of Christmas cheer

Chocolate Spice Cake with White Wine Berry Glaze

Another great thing about uproot wines is their partnership with Food52– one of my favorite recipe resources- where I went for inspiration in the cake realm. I just added a Christmas spin with a few extra holiday ingredients.

For the Glaze (I listed this first because I suggest you make it first, due to the double-glazing effect we use on this cake.)

What You Will Need

3/4 cup uproot Sauvignon Blanc 

6 ounces fresh blueberries

6 ounces fresh raspberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

What You Will Do

1. In a medium saucepan (make sure you use a larger one than you think you need- your liquid mixture will expand like an over-stuffed Santa when it boils), combine white wine, blueberries, raspberries, vanilla extract, and sugar.

2. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and let it cook at high heat for at most five minutes. Watch the mixture to make sure it doesn’t overflow the pan. If things get too crazy and you are afraid it is going to bubble over, just go ahead and turn the heat back down to medium or medium-low.

3. Cook on medium heat for about 24 minutes. Make sure and watch your mixture towards the end, stirring frequently to make sure the sugar and berries don’t burn.*

4. Let your glaze cool as you bake the cake.

* To be honest, this cooking time really depends on how thick you would like your glaze to be. I like mine a bit more like jelly so it gives the cake texture and shine; but, if you would like for it to be thinner, cook it on medium-low heat for up to 45 minutes. I also cooked this twice and had different cooking times for the glaze, so really just watch your mixture to see that it cooks to where you want it to be. When it comes to working with liquid sugar, it’s always better to go slowly so you don’t burn off your holiday fingers, as these are vital to your continued recipe success.

For the Cake

  • 1  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon, but up to your preference)
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used this brand)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional, for dusting)

What You Will Do

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F and spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
  3. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk the mixture until it is smooth.
  4. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate. Whisk together to combine.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. Please do not miss this step, as it is really entertaining and will hopefully make your cake hole-less! Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
  6. Your cake may have a darker brown ring around the edges; that’s ok. That’s what we have that gorgeous glaze for!
  7. Once the cake is removed from the oven, place it on a cooling rack. Poke tiny holes throughout the cake with a toothpick or fork, going about 3/4 of the way to the bottom.
  8. Spread a thin glaze of white wine berry mixture over the cake, making sure to cover the entire cake surface. This will help infuse some of the berry flavor inside of the cake as it cools.
  9. Once your cake has cooled completely, turn it out onto your serving platter.
  10. Spread the rest of your berry glaze on the top of the cake, working from the center out. Sift confectioners sugar on top if desired for extra celebratory pizazz.