Things I like: Fran’s Chocolates

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To be honest, “like” is an understatement.  It would just be a little weird if I were to wax poetic about how much I *love* Fran’s Chocolates.  I was first introduced to Fran’s when my brother-in-law and his wife moved to Seattle almost a decade ago.  Courtney would put together these amazingly packaged and incredibly gorgeous Pacific Northwest food baskets around the holidays, and Fran’s Peppermint Truffles were a mainstay.  Needless to say, the day the food basket arrived on our front porch was always a very happy day in our household.

Everything about a Fran’s chocolate is perfection, and it all starts with the packaging, which is sophisticated and complimented by a gorgeous satin ribbon.  Just getting a box of Fran’s feels like a special occasion!  The chocolates themselves are smooth and delectable and it is very clear that the folks at Fran’s pay attention to every last detail – from gold leaf, to oolong fragment, to chocolate swirl.

Why am I telling you about Fran’s now?  Valentine’s Day is coming and you don’t want to miss your chance to special order your loved ones these chocolates!!  All I can say is move over Godiva, there’s a new chocolate in town!

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Mango Panna Cotta

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I didn’t think I’d make it.  Between the predictions of the apocalypse and the holidays, I couldn’t see past 2012.  I threw caution to the wind, ate cheese and crackers, pate, and all kinds of decadent food and didn’t look back.  Until now.  I’m not saying I regret it, but I am saying something’s gotta give and I hope it’s not the button on my pants!

I’ve never been one for diets or cleanses or anything that requires any sort of willpower, and that’s why I love this Mango Panna Cotta recipe.  It’s a rif on the mango lassi, only served for dessert.  It’s easy, it’s healthy, and it looks beautiful.

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Mango Panna Cotta with Ginger
makes 6 6-oz. panna cottas

2 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons of mango nectar (such as Looza)
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 ½ cups low fat yogurt
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp ground ginger

1. Lightly oil 6 6-oz ramekins.
2. Place 3 Tbsp mango nectar in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the nectar.  Let the nectar and gelatin stand for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 1/2 cups mango nectar.  Boil the nectar for about 10 minutes to reduce it by about 1/3.
4. Remove the nectar from the heat and transfer ½ cup of the mango nectar to a liquid measuring cup to use as a sauce.
5. Add the gelatin mixture to the remaining reduction and whisk to incorporate until all of the gelatin is dissolved.
6. In another bowl, mix the yogurt, buttermilk, sugar, ginger and lemon juice, then slowly stream the hot mango nectar into the yogurt mixture, whisking all the while to incorporate.
7. Use ladle to divide panna cotta between ramekins.
8. Chill until set, at least 4 hours.
9. To serve:  unmold panna cottas onto plates, pour a little of the reserved sauce so it covers the top and dribbles down the sides.  You can top the panna cotta with any number of things – I think pomegranate seeds, chopped crystallized ginger, chopped mangos or pistachios would all be great!

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alexandra's kitchen

mostly simple • sometimes fussy • always seasonal