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Junk Food Goes Gourmet, Holy Mole: A 5 Star Culinary Makeover Challenge

March 26, 2012 by Joan Nova in 5 Star Foodie Makeover Cooking Group, Appetizers, Fish/Seafood, Food Challenge, Mexican + Southwestern, Nuevo Latino, Party Food, Recipe Development | 27 Comments

The message announcing the new challenge said “take your favorite Junk Food … something you are addicted to, for example chips or fries … and use it in a gourmet dish!”

I panicked and replied “Yikes, I’ll have to find a bad habit in a hurry.”

You may not believe it, but I really don’t eat junk food (categorized as having no nutritional value and usually high in fat, salt or sugar, and calories). If I do indulge on rare occasion, I’m definitely not ‘addicted’ — and there’s absolutely no junk food in my kitchen. But, I do have a guilty pleasure or two.

Guilty Pleasure vs. Junk Food. I classify ‘guilty pleasure’ as something with limited nutritional value (opposed to none) and, equally important, consumed in moderation (not addictively).

Wine would be #1. Number 2 would be chocolate-covered expresso beans. You can always find a package sitting on the corner of my kitchen work table, right between the fruit + vegetable basket and the wine.

I don’t eat them every day but, when I feel like a treat, the dark chocolate and the taste of coffee really does it for me. And, all it takes is one or two. That’s moderation!

I cleared the question of guilty pleasure vs. junk food for the challenge … so, chocolate-covered expresso beans it is. Now for the transformation.

•     •     •

My first thought was MOLE (pronounced moh-lay, no accent mark, I checked) — and I stuck with it! Mole is an aromatic sauce popular in Mexican cuisine. It has great depth of flavor. It also has many variations.

This is mine. x2. :)


Holy Mole Granita, as an amuse bouche or an hors d’oeuvre.

For this presentation, frozen mole granita was placed in the bottom of each spoon and then presented with alternating shrimp and a simple avocado salad dressed with tomato, cilantro and fresh lemon juice.


Moving on to the entree, I prepared well-seasoned shrimp in a hot skillet and white rice to accompany the cooked mole sauce.

A word about food styling and photography. I know the white spoons are so 20-10, but I couldn’t resist.

And just one more photo which I created on Big Huge Labs and thought was fun.

Tasting Note. It had been a long time since I tasted a mole sauce and I, happily, rediscovered its wonderful complexity of flavors. The granita worked well. It was fun as a small taste but if making it again, I would freeze a much smaller portion.

On the plus side, however, I have a container left in the freezer and I’m thinking I can pull it out at any time, cook it, and have another wonderful mole-sauced dinner.

Developing the Recipe. I looked at a recipe online for some guidance in creating the mole and then came up with this.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Expresso Mole
  • ½ cup chocolate covered expresso beans (grind to powder)
  • 4 orange-scented prunes (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 1 lg dry chili pepper (seed and grind)
  • ½ cup tomato (chopped)
  • few sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup water
  • dry seasonings: cinnamon, cumin, oregano, 1 clove, 1 star anise
How To
  1. Blend until smooth.
  2. To make granita, layer in glass baking dish and freeze.
  3. Once it begins to crystalize, run fork through about every 30 minutes so it doesn't dry in one sheet.
  4. To make sauce, bring to near boil in saucepan and then simmer. The longer, the better.
Ingredients yielded about 2 cups. Freezing takes a few hours.

Note: FOODalogue suggests this recipe as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with…in your own kitchen…to your own spice and taste levels…and to your preferred portion sizes.

The round-up of everyone’s creations will be posted Friday on our hosts’ blogs. I can’t wait!

hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!
NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Faith says:

    I’m a huge fan of chocolate-covered espresso beans too! What a brilliant choice for the challenge. Love how you used them in mole, it’s such a natural progression of their flavor.

  2. Nuria says:

    Great job Joan!!!! Love the way you prepared it :D and also love the photos; the mosaic one is really beautiful.

    I never tried mole before and your guilty pleasure gives it an exotic look.
    Nuria recently posted..tapas [Flickr]My Profile

  3. Any time chocolate coverd expresso beans are included in a meal I’m sure to love it. My favorite also, as my grandmother always had them in her kitchen. What a great way to use them.
    Patricia Durr recently posted..The Passion of The Wynwood Art District, Miami FLMy Profile

  4. Ben says:

    Interesting challenge and your take on it. I’m really intrigued now. I’d love to know how the espresso beans played with the rest of the ingredients. Great presentation too!
    Ben recently posted..An Introduction to BeansMy Profile

  5. Love it, love it, love it. All of this post. Of course, the mole resonated for me and as always I applaud your insanely wonderful creativity. You inspire.

    And I have some remnants of a very nice blackberry mole in my freezer that is calling to me to be reinvented…
    Flavors of the Sun recently posted..3 in 1–A Perfect ComboMy Profile

  6. You kicked ass on this post. Your creative juices were definitely flowing. I, too, like the mosaic.
    Platanos, Mangoes and Me! recently posted..VENEZUELAN BEEF RIB SOUP- SANCOCHO VENEZOLANOMy Profile

  7. I’m a big fan of the chocolate espresso coffee beans also. I keep them in the refrigerator for a nibble if I need a quick pick me up. Great job with the Mole and I think the tasting spoons were the perfect thing to use. Fabulous photos of everything Joan.
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen recently posted..Hostess Gifts and a Guest PostMy Profile

  8. Bravo bravo. All is amazing. I like your comment about the spoons being so 2010. I never even got there yet, so I guess now I don’t have to. haha. Now as for mole, I never did this either. You are so inspiring.
    angela@spinachtiger recently posted..How to Color Coconut for the Prettiest Coconut CupcakesMy Profile

  9. Lori Lynn says:

    Cool Joan! A mole granita, that is crazy. Love your creativity!

    Coincidentally, I made a mole this weekend too. But not for the Junk Food challenge. Turns out my junk food dish is painfully simple…but it tasted too good to complicate.

    That mosaic image is neat, and ooh, I am out of touch, didn’t know about the spoon thing, thanks for that.

    So glad you are a part of the 5 Star Cooking Group! You really add some zest!
    Lori Lynn recently posted..Eco-Friendly Teacher Appreciation LuncheonMy Profile

  10. Very clever! I LOVE mole sauce; it’s one of my favorites. Your photos are fabulous and I think the spoons are great!
    the wicked noodle recently posted..lemon tiramisu {with homemade lemon curd}My Profile

  11. bellini says:

    Very well done Joan!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Katie says:

    I’m a definite fan of mole. It’s been so long since I’ve had it! Incredible creativity with this post (although I think I’m equally impressed by your willpower–no junk food whatsoever?!).
    Katie recently posted..The Artwork of F. Molina CamposMy Profile

  13. Laz says:

    Wonderful job with this challenge. Creative use of your “junk food.” Your photos are flawless.

    Two thumbs up for creativity and execution.

  14. I love it when you get super-creative Joan. Agree with your definitions of junk food vs guilty pleasures. Actually they shouldn’t be guilty either as long as they are not a major part of your diet.
    Sally – My Custard Pie recently posted..Growing vegetables in the desertMy Profile

  15. Tanantha says:

    Those beans are addictive! I love those and by the time I can stop myself is when it’s all gone haha. Nice work to incorporate these beans into Mole. Love your presentation too and always good to have options – eating cold or warm.
    Tanantha recently posted..A Chef Coat by Happy Chef Uniform – ReviewMy Profile

  16. Wow this is amazing! First I wish I had the problem of not having junk food that I’m addicted to haha! But both the granita and hot mole look incredible! I love that you made it from chocolate covered espresso beans! Great job!
    Lacy @ NYCityEats recently posted..Potato Chip Pasta w/ Corn Crema & Crab Asparagus Salad – A 5 Star Makeover!My Profile

  17. I am a huge fan of mole and don’t care if your white spoons are 20-10! Your creativity is all 20-12 and rising! Love this Joan – you rock and btw very nice choice of junk food :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors recently posted..Easy Elegance ~ Seared Pork Medallions in a Dijon Mustard & Dill SauceMy Profile

  18. How fun to make a mole from chocolate covered espresso beans, very cool idea! I put the first picture, the ones with the spoons, for the roundup but let me know if you would prefer to use a different one :) They’re all excellent :)

  19. Robin Sue says:

    Wow you really nailed this one! I do indulge in those chocolate beans too- nice treat!

  20. Joan says:

    Thanks for your very nice comments. I absolutely l-o-v-e these challenges!

  21. I always thought these kind of creative challenges bring out the crazy side of our thinking, but after looking at your junk food-derived mole and granita, they don’t seem that crazy at all! In fact, these look positively irresistible! Well done, Joan :).
    Maya@Foodiva’s Kitchen recently posted..French Fridays With Dorie – Crab and Pomelo SaladMy Profile

  22. Wow, beautiful job with the challenge! I have to try this mole…fantastic and so creative, love it!

  23. What a great way to use chocolate covered espresso beans!!!
    Lisa @ Snappy Gourmet recently posted..Crunchy Mexican Tortilla Chicken & GiveawayMy Profile

  24. deana sidney says:

    I first tried those beans years ago when I saw them at Jacques Torres in Brooklyn. They have been in my fridge ever since. Nothing like them for a quick pick-me-up. I imagine they would do the same for a mole… great little idea and the combination you came up with looks perfect… well done!!
    deana sidney recently posted..Chicken a la King, Ladies Who Lunch, Circa 1913My Profile

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  1. […] See the original article here: Junk Food Goes Gourmet, Holy Mole: A 5 Star Culinary Makeover … […]

  2. […] some Mexican love. [Frequent visitors to FOODalogue may remember that I had a container of frozen mole from the last culinary challenge which I used as the flavor base for this […]

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