What if…you could eat chocolate all day?

One of my favorite things about writing a chocolate-themed cozy mystery series is (not surprisingly) all the chocolate! While dreaming up new adventures for Hayden Mundy Moore, my chocolate expert turned amateur sleuth, I spend weeks immersed in all the delectable flavors and aromas of Theobroma cacao. This (naturally) leads to eating a lot of chocolate. Chocolate chip cookies! Chocolate cake! Chocolate gelato! Nothing wrong with that, right?

Of course not! YOLO. I’m always careful to get my share of apples and spinach. You probably are, too. I’m not suggesting a nonstop diet of chocolate milkshakes. But wouldn’t it be…fun to eat nothing but chocolate all day? It’s surprisingly easy to do. I’m here to show you how.

For breakfast, wake up with toast and scrumptious chocolate butter (the recipe is in Criminal Confections, the first book in my chocolate whisperer series). Or if you’re on the go, try a fast chocolate smoothie with peanut butter and banana instead. Just combine one frozen chopped banana, one cup of milk or yogurt, and a tablespoon each of cocoa powder, peanut butter, and sweetener (I like brown sugar or maple syrup) in a blender and whiz until creamy.

For a midmorning snack, perk up your usual trail mix with chocolate chips. The nuts and dried fruit will give you the energy to power on until lunchtime, and the chocolate chips will make you the envy of the office. Or if it’s Monday, treat yourself to an artisanal chocolate bar, preferably with caramel and/or sprinkles of fleur de sel. The salt will amplify the flavor of the chocolate, making it taste even more multidimensional. Or just eat a Snickers. It’s a classic for a reason, after all.

For lunch, make a sandwich with raspberry jam and homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread. Or try a pack-and-go fruit-and-grain salad with hazelnut vinaigrette and crunchy cacao nibs. It’s easy to make ahead and take with you—just be sure to keep the vinaigrette and the salad separate until serving time to avoid sogginess. If you’re feeling really decadent and/or ravenous, have a chocolate chip muffin on the side. You can bake a batch on the weekend, then freeze them for later. Your muffin will be defrosted in time for lunch, easy-peasy.

For an afternoon snack, try a cup of the world’s best chocolate pudding, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, one of my go-to blogs for kitchen inspiration. Or get creative with chocolate-dusted popcorn! It’s simple. Just make your favorite popcorn (I pop mine in a small paper sack in the microwave), then sprinkle with chocolate sugar. The recipe is in Dangerously Dark, the second book in my chocolate whisperer series, where it does double duty as a topping for toast in “now now now” chocolate sugar toast. (Can you tell I’m on board the deluxe toast trend?)

At the end of the day, everyone loves breakfast for dinner (“brinner,” around my house), so we’re going all out with double chocolate brownie pancakes! These are sweet, comforting, and pretty unforgettable—especially if you’re dining with kids. Noshing on something so dessert-like might seem crazy, but if you make your pancakes with the (optional) white whole wheat flour, they pack a reasonable nutritional profile…which allows you to gild the lily and add whipped cream! The flavor contrast will make your pancakes taste twice as chocolaty. That’s a scientific fact, courtesy of Hayden.

At the end of the day, curl up with a good book and indulge in a boozy chocolate cocktail, ice cream with “can’t miss” hot-fudge sauce (recipe in Dangerously Dark), or tryptophan-containing (smile-inducing) homemade hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Voilà! Your all-chocolate day is complete! Wasn’t that fun? Now, what to have tomorrow…?


Discover your chocolate persona (almost) instantly

I’ve been told that some people “don’t like chocolate.” When it comes to dessert, they’d rather have lemon or vanilla, strawberry or even (shudder) papaya. I’m not sure I understand that. In fact, I’m not sure I believe it. Surely a well-made brownie or a bowl of chocolate cherry ice cream would bring around these cacao naysayers to the chocolaty side of life, right?

Similarly, I have friends who claim to be uninterested in reading. “Who has time?” they protest. Or, more perplexingly, “I can’t find anything I want to read.” I don’t understand that, either. I feel pretty sure I’ll never reach the end of my flourishing to-be-read list. Between fiction and nonfiction, engaging cozy mysteries like the chocolate-themed series I write (featuring globe-trotting “chocolate whisperer” and amateur sleuth Hayden Mundy Moore) and engrossing novels featuring boy wizards (my whole family read Harry Potter simultaneously), I’ll always have more to read. More I want to read. More than I can possibly read, given one short lifetime. And that’s not counting rereading.

So what does all this have to do with discovering your chocolate persona? It’s easy! If chocolate is good (it is) and reading is good (ditto), then what could be better than combining both?

That’s why I’ve whipped up a short quiz for you. Because it turns out that your choice of chocolate can directly influence your choice of reading material…if you let it. Give it a try!

1. It’s the weekend, so you have a time for an indulgent breakfast. You choose…
(A) a cinnamon roll or pain au chocolat. Or both. You only live once!
(B) coffee and toast with chocolate butter, followed by a shopping trip and/or pedicure. Treating yourself well is a priority for you, inside and out.

2. It’s 3 PM and you’re ravenous. For a snack, you’d prefer…
(A) a chocolate stout affogato. It’s a double pick-me-up! Plus, it’s almost happy hour.
(B) chocolate mousse. It’s a classic, and so are you.

3. Your dinner guests are bringing their children. For a crowd-pleasing all-ages dessert, you make…
(A) ice cream sundaes with homemade hot-fudge sauce, whipped cream, and plenty of sprinkles. Who cares if it’s messy? The important thing is that everyone has a great time.
(B) warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. They’re your go-to treat. In fact, you already have balls of frozen cookie dough stashed in the freezer. You’re that organized.

SCORE:

If you chose mostly (A) answers, you’re a chocolate adventurer. You like trying new things and being on the forefront of trends. Your friends count on you to know the hottest new restaurants and the must-see new movies. You love telling people about your latest discoveries.

(A) Adventurer bonus! Recipes for the adventurous chocolate treats you chose can be found in Criminal Confections, the first book in Colette London’s chocolate whisperer cozy mystery series. Why not try it today? Or maybe you’ll want to skip straight ahead to the second book, Dangerously Dark. You’re a free spirit. Why read in order? The books in the series stand alone. (Knowing you, you’ll love being first to discover the newest book!)

If you chose mostly (B) answers, you’re a chocolate expert. You know what’s good, and you stick with it, whether “it” is brownies or booty-flattering jeans. Your friends count on you to deliver the ultimate homemade birthday cake and to show up on time for everything. You never miss a new album from your favorite artist, and your Netflix queue is jam packed.

(B) Expert bonus! Recipes for the classic chocolate treats you chose can be found in Dangerously Dark, book number two in Colette London’s chocolate whisperer series. Why not try it today? You don’t even have to have read book number one, Criminal Confections, first, because all the books in the series stand alone. (Knowing you, you might want to read them in order, though, so you’re completely up-to-date!)


HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD

2 cups (8 ounces) hazelnuts
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil (or other neutral-flavored oil, like grapeseed oil or safflower oil)

START: If your hazelnuts aren’t already toasted, you’ll need to do that first. To do so, heat
the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a medium baking sheet, then roast until they darken slightly in color and smell aromatic, about 7-8 minutes, stirring if necessary to toast evenly. Set aside to cool.

OPTIONAL: Skin the cooled hazelnuts by picking up one handful at a time and rubbing the nuts together to remove the skins, then placing each skinned hazelnut in a separate bowl (or directly in your food processor). This takes a little time, but results in a slightly smoother and sweeter spread. It’s not necessary to remove every single hazelnut skin.

Because of the strong chocolate flavor, this recipe works fine if a few skins remain.

IN A FOOD PROCESSOR: Grind together the hazelnuts and salt for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the food processor bowl with a silicone spatula as needed, until a smooth nut butter is formed. The mixture may become very warm; that’s okay.

ADD: Add the cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to the hazelnut butter. Process for an additional 2-3 minutes, until mixture looks very smooth. Add the vanilla extract and hazelnut (or other) oil; process until the chocolate hazelnut spread is combined. It will look quite thin, but don’t worry! It will thicken considerably when refrigerated.

FINISH: Transfer the chocolate hazelnut spread to a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Bring to room temperature before serving, or briefly microwave for 10-15 seconds so that your chocolate hazelnut spread is supple and luscious. Enjoy!

NOTES FROM HAYDEN:

This homemade spread is similar to Nutella but contains less sugar and more hazelnuts (so it’s especially flavorful!). Use a very good quality cocoa powder to amplify the chocolate flavor—either Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder is fine. You can modify this recipe to make chocolate almond or chocolate walnut spread, too! Just substitute an identical quantity of almonds or walnuts for the hazelnuts and proceed as directed.


Dangerously Dark Mech.indd

Chocolate-whisperer Hayden Mundy Moore has just arrived in Portland, Oregon, where she’s about to scarf soufflés and sip cacao-based cocktails at her friend’s engagement party. Fresh from nabbing her first candy-covered killer, the last thing Hayden wants to do is mix her love of chocolate with criminal mischief again. But then the groom-to-be turns up dead before beginning his renowned Chocolate After Dark tour…

Hayden’s friends insist that Declan’s death was a freak accident, but she knows there’s no mistaking the bitter aftertaste of homicide. In the midst of habañero hot chocolate and mocha-chunk gelato, a choco-crazed killer waits to strike again. Hayden will need to use more than her extraordinarily gifted taste buds to bring this murderer to justice, but she just might have bitten off more than she can chew in the process…

“Chocoholics and food cozy fans rejoice! With prose as smooth and delicious as its theme, this quality debut cozy introduces a smart protagonist with an unusual and tasty profession.” —<i<>Library Journal (starred) on Criminal Confections

Colette London sometimes eats salad. She always eats chocolate. And she’d love for you to join her chocolate-loving community! If email isn’t your style, but you want to get new recipes and occasional book news, drop by her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+ pages right now. Let her know you came from this site, and she’ll send you a bonus recipe!

p.s. – Colette London is a pseudonym for a best-selling novelist who’s published more than three dozen books worldwide. Want to use your Google Fu to find out her secret identity? Nah. Don’t spoil the surprise. Use your powers for good and order Dangerously Dark instead!

 

 

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