Fluffy Hot Chocolate


I am ruined. Never again will I be able to settle for a cup of hot chocolate concocted from boiling water and some powder in a white pouch. Even the so-called gourmet varieties are no match for the frothy, delicious mug of cocoa I came across, Fluffy Hot Chocolate.

This recipe takes real marshmallows that are melted into the milk and chocolate to make it delectable and by far the best cup of hot cocoa my lips have ever tasted. I like to add a little Irish Cream in mine to give it a little something special. Some of my friends prefer Kahlua and next time I may add some Peppermint Schnapps for fun.  For the kiddos, a little peppermint extract would be great and a bit of pumpkin pie spice for all the pumpkin lovers out there.

Whether this is for you or the kids, this is one seriously delicious hot beverage. As the days get colder and more dreary try this to perk up your spirits.

Fluffy Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
8 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking cocoa
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Accompaniments and garnish ideas: Whip cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, chocolate shavings, espresso, liqueurs

Directions
In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and add any additional accompaniments you like.

A Perfect Donut


My weakness is homemade baked goods. I have been known to devour an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies in one day and my poor husband has come home to the smell of brownies only to find that my boys and I (mainly me though) have already devoured the entire pan. One caveat to this has always been donuts. There is an amazing local donut bakery in Seattle called Top Pot Donuts. Starbucks now serves their delicious, fried pieces of heaven and whenever I am feeling indulgent I will get one. With such great donuts and my own inability to make good ones myself, I have always turned to Top Pot and Starbucks for my donut fix. Until now…

Yesterday was a gloomy afternoon and I decided to take the challenge of making a batch of donuts with a new recipe I found. I was not disappointed. They came out of the fryer with a crisp crust and a soft, chewy interior. I was in love. I hope you fall in love with this one as well.

Yummy Donuts
(makes 1 dozen)

Ingredients
1 c. milk
5 t. yeast (or two packets)
1 pinch sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
½ c. warm mashed potatoes
½ t. salt
¼ c. sugar
2 T. oil

Directions
Microwave the milk for about 1 minute in the microwave. Make sure it is warm (not hot) and add the 5 teaspoons of yeast (2 packets) and a pinch of sugar and stir. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Add the yeast mixture and mix the dough thoroughly by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook for 3 minutes.

Prepare your kneading surface by spreading a few tablespoons of flour on a smooth surface. Put the dough in the middle of the flour and sprinkle a little flour on top and on your hands. Knead the dough a few times. Once the dough has been kneaded, spread it out to be a half inch thick with your hands or with a rolling pin.

Now it is time to cut out the donuts, you can use a donut cutter or just use something about the same size and then find something smaller to make a hole with.

Place the donuts on a floured pan to let rise as you get the oil ready. Let them rise for a total of ten minutes (it takes about five minutes for the oil to heat up).

Pour about a half inch of oil (vegetable or canola oil) into a pan or you can use an electric fry pan, which is what I used. The oil needs to be about 360 degrees. If the oil starts to smoke it is way too hot. Test the oil with some of the scraps of dough and when it is ready, cook the donuts until golden brown on each side.
Allow the donuts to cool on a rack or on some paper so that the oil soaks off.

Now, you can either sprinkle these with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, but being the chocoholic that I am, I decided to dunk mine in some chocolate glaze. Here is the recipe for that:

Chocolate Donut Glaze

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 – 4 T. warm water

Directions
Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan until melted, remove from heat. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gradually stir in the water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Dip the tops of the doughnuts in the glaze.

Panini Friday

Right after the New Year begins we have a tradition. We take the boys up to Powderpigs ski school on Friday nights and while we leave teaching our little rascals to someone else, we enjoy a great night of skiing (or snowboarding) and food with some great friends.

Since we head up to the slopes around 5:30 I have been plagued with what to make my husband and kids that is healthy, delicious and portable. I can’t stomach to send them up to the slopes on McDonald’s and the guilt was getting to be too much. I had to think of something. Last Friday I reached into my cabinet to get my toaster out when I saw my Panini press. My prayers were answered – delicious, wholesome and I can add lots of protein in there. I love making Panini’s because the possibilities are endless. Different breads, meats, cheese, veggies, fruits, aioli, infused oils…I couldn’t wait!

My first pass was a roasted turkey, gruyere, apricot and chive Panini. It oozed deliciousness and judging by how my hubby devoured it on the road up skiing, it did not disappoint. Enjoy!

Turkey, Gruyere, Apricot and Chive Panini
(recipe makes one panini)

Ingredients
2 slices of bread (use whatever you have on hand or whatever looks great at the bakery. I used two slices of a crusty Artisan bread for this sandwich)
4 slices roasted turkey breast
1 ½ oz. gruyere cheese
1 T. apricot jam
5 chives
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Direction

1. Heat Panini Press
2. Drizzle both sides of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
3. Turn bread over and slather jam on both sides. Layer turkey, cheese and chives on one slice of bread and cover with the other.
4. Place in Panini press until golden and cheese oozes.

My Favorite Cookie

Growing up my dad referred to me as the cookie monster. I LOVE cookies, specifically chocolate chip cookies. I have made every single version of chocolate chip cookie you could imagine – the Toll House Recipe, Mrs. Fields’ alleged recipe, countless recipes from blog posts, the Food Network and of course the infamous $250 Neiman Marcus recipe. They are all good, but there is always something missing – maybe a little more brown sugar, less flour, more eggs, no oats and so on.

One day I Binged the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe and clicked on the link to Neiman Marcus and I stumbled upon their cookie recipe, but it was not the one that is the legendary myth. This recipe had much more brown sugar and less oats. OMG, these are SOOOOOOOO good! I never, ever will look for another chocolate chip recipe again. Seriously, these are the best!

I have altered the recipe slightly from the original version by changing the cooking time and omitting the espresso powder. If you love chocolate chip cookies, you must try this recipe. Here it is:

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 T. sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart and roll into a uniform ball. Bake for 9 minutes. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

One Way I Plan To Be More Organized In 2010 – Weekly Meal Plans…

So I hope that this resolution will stick. I have been sick as a dog and stuck in bed, so I was able to get a jump start on this resolution by perusing some old issues of Cooks Illustrated as well as log many hours of Food Network time. So, here it is below. I must say that not only does it sound great, but when I went to the grocery store this afternoon, my bill was just over $50. Now, $50 for me, is amazing! Generally I can’t walk into a grocery store without leaving with at least $100 of loot, so this just might be an economical resolution as well…Bravern here I come! For those of you not in the Seattle area, the Bravern is an amazing new shopping establishment complete with a Neiman Marcus, Sur La Table, Louis Vuitton and Anthropologie.

OK, so enough with the rambling, here is the weeks menu:

Tuesday, December 29th: Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken
Wednesday, December 30th: Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Red Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Thursday, December 31st: HAPPY NEW YEAR! We are partying with friends tonight!
Friday, January 1st: Black Bean and Chorizo Enfrijoladas
Saturday, January 2nd: Prawn Gratin with Angel Hair Pasta
Sunday, January 3rd: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Orzo and Green Beans

So, last night I made the Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken. It was good, however in my case I used fresh, Chinese noodles I found in my produce section and the texture was mushy. Next time I will stick with regular spaghetti noodles as I think they will hold their shape better. Other than that, I would definitely make this again. It is an easy one dish meal, very easy to prepare and has a decent amount of vegetables.

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken
(Please note that this recipe is made to be enough for two people. If you want to make it for more, I would double it.)

Ingredients

Sauce
2 ½ T. soy sauce
1 t. sesame seeds
2 T. peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. light brown sugar
1 ½ t. grated, fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
½ t. hot sauce
Hot water

Noodles
1 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/3 lb. dried spaghetti
1 T. toasted sesame oil
½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 carrot, grated
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 T. chopped, fresh cilantro

1. Blend all Sauce ingredients until smooth. Add hot water 1 T. at a time until the sauce has the consistence of heavy cream. (I used 2 T. of water for this.)
2. Cook noodles according to package directions
3. When noodles are cooked, transfer to a bowl and toss with sesame oil.
4. Add bell pepper, carrot, scallions, chicken and sauce to the pasta and toss.
5. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Enjoy!