During my teen years, we rented an apartment on the upper floor of a house owned by an Italian family in Brooklyn. One morning, while leaving for school, I noticed a smear of chocolate in the corners of their sons’ mouths. Intrigued, I asked what they were having for breakfast and their mother showed me a jar of Nutella. I asked my mom why we couldn’t have chocolate for breakfast and she said because chocolate wasn’t a breakfast food. While we’re Italian-American, this part of the Italian hadn’t seeped through I guess. I’m normally good at holding grudges, but I’ve let this one go.
Now a mom myself, I understand why she said what she did, but I’ve chosen to channel my authentic Italian roots and pretend “when in Rome…” Needless to say, there have been many a morning that my 6-year old has enjoyed a tiny bit of nutella on toasted whole grain bread. And yes, she loves it with peanut butter as a sandwich in her lunch box—paired with an apple and some yogurt, of course. It’s become such a favorite I decided to recreate the recipe by looking at the ingredients listed on the jar— except mine is free of the palm oil found in the domestically produced ones.
Life is all about balance, whether it’s my challenges as a working mom, house manager (an unofficial title), or head chef. I’d much rather know my daughter greets her home-packed lunch with enthusiasm. And if a little bit of this homemade chocolatey treat gets the job done, I can rest a bit easier. Besides, there’s a kid at heart in all of us—and I’m betting it too can’t resist a smear here or there.
Creamy Hazelnut Chocolate Spread
makes one generous cup
1 cup shelled, toasted hazelnuts, skins removed
4 ounces milk chocolate pieces, melted & slightly cooled
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops, vegetable oil (optional)
Add hazelnuts to the bowl of the food processor attachment on your Cuisinart Stand Mixer. Pulse until it becomes a smooth butter-like consistency. Add the melted chocolate, cocoa, sugar and vanilla. Process until smooth and well-mixed. Add vegetable oil one drop at a time, and pulse to a smooth, spreadable consistency, if necessary.