26 November 2011

Hot 4 Chocolate Mix

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn't get pepper sprayed while shopping on Black Friday! So now that that's all behind us, we are 100% full into The Holiday Season. This is my favorite time of year... the cheery Christmas music, out of town friends coming home to visit, parties, count down to my birthday, and of course lots and lots of treats! So, if you're having people over, or heading to others' homes for the holidays, why not have some Hot 4 Chocolate Mix on hand.
This particular mix is made with cocoa powder plus 3 kinds of chocolate... Chocoholics rejoice! It starts sweet and ends with just a touch of bittersweet-ness, with espresso and cinnamon adding a depth of flavor not found in most commercial mixes. Use the best quality chocolate you can find - Guittard, Scharffen Berger, Valhrona, for example. It makes a great gift, so share share alike!

Hot 4 Chocolate Mix
adapted from Simply Cooking School

2 C sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (save the pod, only use the seeds)
12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
4 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 C dutch processed cocoa powder
4 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Split the vanilla vertically, scrape out the seeds. Mix seeds into the sugar*. Combine the sugar and chocolates into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse to combine. Store in an airtight container.

To make Hot Chocolate: Heat 8oz of milk (definitely use milk for the creaminess) until very hot - about 2.5 min in microwave, or until scalded using a stovetop. Whisk in 4 Tbsp of the cocoa mix until all the chocolate is melted. Top with whipped cream or home made marshmallows.

* Don't throw away the vanilla pod. Put it into a small jar of sugar to allow the scent of it to permeate the sugar. After some time, you'll have delicious smelling vanilla sugar.

19 November 2011

Hot Spiced (and sometimes spiked) Cider

Apple cider is the epitome of fall drinks. Heat it up and add spices and you've got a nice party drink. Top it off with sweet wine and you've got a real winner!
I was making this for a crowd, but you can easily divide or multiply the recipe to suit how many people will be drinking it. Also, you can either heat it up in a saucepan (bring to a simmer, let it simmer about an hour to allow the spices to infuse the liquid) or use the slow cooker. The longer it's on the heat, the more intense the spices get. Adding more cider will keep it balanced.

Hot Ginger and Spice Apple Cider
adapted from Weight Watchers via the girl with the little black cat

8 C apple cider*
2" fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into discs
4 cinnamon sticks
12-16 whole cloves
peel of 2 lemons -- remove only the peel (not the white pith) with a veggie peeler
4 Tbsp brown sugar
sweet red wine** (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Heat on high until hot, stirring every once in a while. Turn down to low and keep it hot through your party.

* Note: Buy a gallon of cider. I started with 8 C so it fit in my slow cooker and kept adding at about the halfway point until we finished it all.

** Alcoholic version note: I'd fill the cup about 2/3 of the way with the cider then top off with the sweet red wine. My wine of choice was Lakeside Red by Lake Anna Winery, a Virginia vineyard. I actually liked it better with the sweet wine because it mellowed and rounded out the spiced cider.

16 November 2011

Cranberry Apple Sauce

There are certain things that just belong on a Thanksgiving table: turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes... and cranberry sauce. Truth be told, I've never been a fan of the stuff. My favorite turkey day foods are the salty and buttery Stovetop or potatoes. Heck, I can only vaguely recall cranberry sauce at any of our Thanksgivings growing up. BUT I understand how important cranberries can be to the holiday table for others, so I grabbed a bag intending to use it only as decoration, lol. But that nagging feeling that some people just love it led me to turn that decor into a last minute addition to our holiday table.

Look how red and pretty!
I'm still not sure about the eating it with turkey thing, but I really liked this! It was tart and just sweet enough. It was received nicely as a side, but next time I'm going to use it to top a brie en croute as an appetizer. Oh look at that, it's a yummy AND versatile holiday dish.

Cranberry Apple Sauce
loosely adapted from Food Network

12 oz bag fresh cranberries
1/3 C vanilla sugar (to taste)
3 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 honeycrisp apple, peeled and diced

In a food processor, combine the cranberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier, and lemon zest and pulse a few times to chop up the cranberries and incorporate all the ingredients. Put cranberries into a small saucepan and mix in the apple. Cook over medium heat until cranberries soften, tasting along the way to add sugar if necessary, until it becomes the consistency you want. (I did add about 2 tbsp of water because I lost track of it for a bit and wanted to loosen it up, and it turned out great.)

13 November 2011

Holiday Season Kick Off Post: Pumpkin Roll

This week is my official start of the holiday party season. I have no less than 3 Thanksgivings to celebrate this month, then Hanukkah, Christmas, my birthday, New Years, and my company holiday party... all in the next 8 weeks! I'm sure your holidays will be just as full of parties... and you can't show up to many of them empty handed! Through the end of the year, I'll be posting (no seriously, I'll post!) treats you can bring to all the upcoming potlucks or give as food gifts.

Of course I'm going to start with dessert :-)
They say the holidays are not a time to try a new recipe because of risk of stress or things not working out. Pshaw, this is the perfect time to play. Case in point... I wanted to make something pumpkin, but I didn't want to make the same cheesecake I do every year. Thus: I made a pumpkin roll. At midnight. The midnight before my first Thanksgiving meal. I made the icing in the morning after it cooled and assembled it while the turkey was in the oven. It can even be made ahead up to a couple days before an event, so it's both good as a pre-planned or sort of last minute treat!

First things first, though, you need a jelly roll pan - 10"x17". I always wondered about that slightly smaller than normal baking sheet I had... turns out it wasn't a rejected half sheet pan after all, lol. You'll also need a clean dishcloth (not a thick or terry cloth one, just a thin one) because you'll use it to roll the cake while it's hot - if you cool it flat and attempt to roll, there's a much higher chance of it cracking, so best to do it while it's hot/pliable.

Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Libby's

3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 C minus 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar*
2/3 C canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 10x17 jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper, and then lightly butter and flour the paper.

Combine dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a small bowl and whisk to combine. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick - it should be light yellow and almost fluffy looking. Add pumpkin and beat until combined. Fold in the dry ingredient mixture. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 13-15 minutes or until the middle springs back up when you gently press on it.

While it's baking, lay out a clean dish cloth and sprinkle or sift some powdered sugar on it. When the cake is done, immediately loosen edges and turn directly on to the sugared dish cloth. Carefully peel off the parchment. While it's hot, roll (with the towel) into a tight log.

* Note about the sugar: I love vanilla, and I had vanilla sugar on hand, so I used it. You can sub plain sugar.

1 8oz bar cream cheese, room temp
4 tbsp butter, room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C powdered sugar

Blend the cream cheese and butter. Add in vanilla. Slowly blend or stir in the powdered sugar and beat until well combined.

To assemble the pumpkin roll:
Unroll the cooled roll. Spread the icing evenly. Reroll. Chill for an hour or so to firm up the icing to make it easier to cut later. Enjoy!