I like a little sweet after my kids go to bed. Sometimes a piece of fruit will do. Or a breakfast cookie. But at other times, I want something either really chocolate-y or just really intense--something that a nice cold orange--no matter how juicy and perfect--just isn't going to satisfy. But I usually don't need a whole lot of something intense. Just a little something that can be savored a bit, loved. And I find it easiest to stop at a little sweet if there is, in fact, a small sweet waiting for me (perhaps with a nice mug of herbal tea). The whole grabbing a few chocolate chips thing has never worked for me. I find it incredibly unsatisfying for whatever reason, which means--ironically--that I end up eating more and more in the vain hope that at some point it will become satisfying. It never does. Because of this, I often expend a little effort to make a few chocolates for the times when a chocolately craving calls.
The chocolates I make are usually almost stupidly simple. Sometimes I cover nuts or coconut or dried fruit (on wax paper) to make little chocolate clusters. But recently, I have become acquainted with coconut oil. (Thanks, Vanessa!) It is solid below 72 degrees and liquid above that. It is purported to have all kinds of health benefits--it's supposed to boost your immune system, be good for your hair and skin, and even aid in weight loss. If you'd like to read more on that, have a look here. I like an oil that claims health benefits because it makes me feel better about my evening sweet. And coconut oil is perfect, because not only are you eating healthfully (go on, tell it to yourself), it also lends a bit of coconut-y exotic-ness to your otherwise stupidly simple chocolates. My oil, by the way, is from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Simple Chocolates with Coconut Oil
Prep time: 3-4 minutes
Chill time: 15-60 minutes
(chocolate: .50, coconut oil: I'm not entirely sure--mine was gifted to me, but from looking online and estimated for just a couple tablespoons, I'm guessing about .20)
Note on molds: These can be purchased online or at stores like Michael's for a couple bucks. Or, if your lucky, at a yard sale or thrift shop. They come in handy for dressing lots of simple things up.
Note on chocolate: I use Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips. I like them. They're a decent chocolate for fairly cheap. If you want to go fancier, knock yourself out. I'm certainly not opposed to the use of higher-quality chocolate. However, although Hershey's and Nestle are fine, I won't recommend them like I do the Ghiradelli.
Note on melting: I melt my stuff in the microwave. Otherwise you should use a double boiler or a bowl that is put over the top of a pan with water simmering in it (the lip of the bowl should be bigger than the lip of the pan so it's suspended above the simmering water in the pan).
Note on tempering: If you are very fussy about how your chocolates look, I must tell you that when you heat and then cool ordinary chocolate chips, the chocolate can get spotty. I did not have this problem when I made it with the coconut oil. (See, more coconut oil magic). However, if spottiness proves to be a problem for you and if it bothers you (it affects appearance, not taste), you can buy tempered chocolate or learn to temper (cool at a rate where the spottiness won't happen) your own chocolate by looking online.
1/2 C Ghiradelli chocolate chips
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp shredded coconut for sprinkling
Put chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave safe bowl and nuke them for about 20-30 seconds. Stir. Repeat this at 20 second intervals until chocolate is mostly melted. (My coconut oil was in solid form when I started, so I had a few chunks of that still hanging about as well.) Take it out and stir it until the chocolate melts (I've found that leaving a few chunks and stirring them until melted kind of sort of tempers your chocolate.) Pour the liquid into molds. If desired drop a pinch of shredded coconut on the bottom of the mold. Cool on counter; or refrigerate if you're impatient like me.
When they've hardened, tap them out onto a clean counter, seal in an air-tight container and refrigerate.
Note: If you house is warm, you'll need to keep these refrigerated; if you don't the coconut oil will make them soft and melty.
P.S If you're digging the whole homemade chocolates thing, give these homemade peanut butter cups a try (though if you plan to have one a night for any amount of time, you should hide them from your husband and kids).