Decadent Hot Chocolate

Trav & I went to our friends house Christmas Evening and brought the makings for “Decadent Hot Chocolate” as found in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  Since the cookbook is 3-ring binder style, I took the hot chocolate page out in preparation to bring it with me, but I apparently set it down as I picked up the grocery bag.  So I knew the ingredients, and I’d glanced at the recipe.  Rather than walking 4 blocks back home to retrieve the recipe, I just went for it.  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoons Hershey’s dutch-processed/dark chocolate powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • more cream, sugar & vanilla for whipped cream
  • Irish Cream

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, cream, chocolate powder, sugar, & vanilla in a saucepan and heat to boiling on the stove top
  2. After the milk mixture is hot, remove from heat & stir in chocolate chips.  Whisk until melted.
  3. Meanwhile, have one of your friends that you’re hanging out with whip some of the cream for topping.  After the cream forms soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla to taste.
  4. Spoon the hot chocolate into individual mugs and add Irish Cream to your hearts’ content.  Stir and top with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

In the original recipe, the vanilla was added off heat along with the chocolate chips and there was more chocolate powder (2 tablespoons instead of 1).  I’m not sure how much difference it might have made, but I will say that our cocoa was delicious.  It’s definitely a special treat (whole milk and heavy cream = rich cocoa!).  I think I’ll be adding this to my holiday traditional recipe list!

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Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder

Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

Gourmet  | December 2001

yield: Makes about 6 cups or 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head broccoli (1/2 pound)
  • 1 large boiling potato (1/2 pound)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • l large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • Preparation:

    1. Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.
    2. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.
    3. Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

    The Verdict:

    Delightful.  Travis said that it was good soup, we didn’t have a lump of cheese in the bottom of the pot, and it was everything I like in a winter soup: filling, thick, and full of fattening things like butter and cheese and cream!  For the dairy, I used an Australian cheese that I found at the local discount grocery store (where I was looking for inexpensive, interesting Christmas presents).  It was a lovely meal, and I’m adding it to our list of recipes to repeat.  Shockingly, I didn’t change a thing from the recipe as written.  I may try to add a bit of spice next time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this way.

    PS… Yay for actually cooking a real meal in our home again – I thought I’d never get back on track!

    Extenuating Circumstances

    So I know that I’ve severely fallen down on the blog the last week. I do have something a little more than the run-of-the-mill excuse. On Saturday, while Travis & I were at ballet rehearsal, our home was burglarized. Travis came home in time to scare them off before they got away with too much – an X-Box 360, almost all of Trav’s games, and the cordless drill.

    The burglars gathered up several other electronics – the laptop, the digital camera, and they’d begun to unplug the cords for the television. Apparently, when Trav pulled up to directly in front of the TV Room window, they just grabbed what they could and ran.

    The police officer that responded asked if we could leave the laptop untouched all weekend, so the forensics team could fingerprint it today.

    So in addition to the feelings of violation, anger, and helplessness, I also didn’t have access to the blog except via my iphone. I did contemplate updating the blog on my phone, but there are some things that a three-inch screen just isn’t great at.

    We’ll get back on track shortly, and get back to menu planning as well. We definitely left the plan far behind starting on Saturday; when we talked to my parents about what happened, they invited us to their house for dinner.

    Then after work yesterday, I told Trav I really just wanted comfort food. So he picked up Mexican take-out for me and Vietnamese take-out for himself (we each have our own comfort foods). We really don’t want to fall off the roll we’ve been on – it’s so much healthier, cheaper, homier – dare I say better? – to prepare local food at home than to pick up take-out all the time. We’ve been doing really well since about mid-summer, and we’re going to have to work to get back in the habit now that we’ve slipped. But we’ll get there!

    Sunday – Winter Squash Mash

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Winter Squash Mash

    Bon Appétit  | October 2004

    yield: Makes 6 servings

    Ingredients:

    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • One  2 3/4- to 3-pound kabocha squash, halved crosswise, seeded
    • 6 4 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
    • 2 6 garlic cloves, minced peeled
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
    • 1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

    Preparation:

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil inside each kabocha squash half and brush to coat. Place squash halves, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash flesh into bowl and mash until almost smooth.

    Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and stir 1 5 minutes or until the garlic begins to caramelize. Smoosh the garlic cloves with your spatula and break it up into relatively small pieces.  Add butter mixture and 1 cup broth to squash and mash until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Add more broth if desired and rewarm in microwave before continuing.)

    Stir 2 tablespoons parsley into squash. Sprinkle squash with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.

    The Verdict:

    If you’ve been following the blog, you know that this meal was scheduled for Friday night.  I arrived home Friday to find a take-and-bake pizza sitting on the counter, and roasted squash sitting on the stove top.  Travis had followed the directions faithfully until it was time to take the squash out of the oven.  Then he thought that he’d messed something up, because the squash was collapsed on the cookie sheet.  He’d only seen the photos of 1/2 squashes still firmly keeping their shapes, so he was sure it was ruined.  Since the pizza was ready to go, we went ahead and ate that for dinner on Friday.  But the squash was fine, so we scraped it into a storage container to wait for another day, which ended up being Sunday.

    After the trauma on Saturday, I wasn’t up to cleaning the kitchen this weekend.  What with the busy schedule we had this week, everything was pretty much dirty, which is why I didn’t mince or press the garlic cloves.  Yes, I am admitting on the internets that my kitchen was dirty enough that I didn’t have any clean utensils capable of mincing garlic. And I still cooked in it.  That’s how I am (sometimes).  So I figured the mincing was really just to get the garlic into edible pieces, and cooking it to the smashing point and spreading it out would probably work fine. 

    I really liked the taste of the kabocha even before the butter and garlic were added – it is probably my favorite of all the winter squashes we’ve tried.  The CSA folks are planning a bulk sale, and here’s hoping there’s a kabocha option!  At any rate, I enjoyed my modified version of this recipe, and I can see how it might need the broth if you started with a less-moist squash, but I would recommend adding it slowly, bit by bit, and testing for texture along the way.

    Chicken Fajitas with Crunchy Lime Cabbage and Avocado

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Chicken Fajitas with Crunchy Lime Cabbage and Avocado

    Bon Appétit  | March 2008

    Tina Miller

    yield: Makes 6 servings

    Ingredients:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for griddle
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
    • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch-thick strips
    • 1 large red onion, halved, sliced lengthwise
    • 3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
    • 6 to 8 fajita-size flour tortillas
    • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, sliced
    • cheese, optional
    • sour cream, optional

    Preparation:

    Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, and chili powder in large bowl. Add chicken, bell pepper, and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature or chill up to 4 hours.

    Toss red cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, lime peel, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place large griddle over 2 burners and heat over medium-high heat. Brush griddle with olive oil. Spread chicken on griddle and cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are browned, turning frequently with tongs, about 7 minutes Total.

    Divide chicken among warm tortillas; top with cabbage mixture and avocado slices.

    The Verdict:

    I love this recipe every time we have it, and it changes a little each time.  Sometimes it’s more taco-style, and sometimes it’s more fajita-style, and we vary the toppings depending on what we have on hand.  This is the first recipe we tried that utilizes cabbage and that I absolutely love.  It turns out that a Mexican spin and lime juice will turn most foods into something I love – maybe I should try it with turnips…

    Wednesday: Beet and Cabbage Soup

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Beet and Cabbage Soup

    Bon Appétit  | May 2003

    by Ana Garcia, Cuernavaca, Mexico

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    • 3 cups coarsely chopped peeled raw beets (from 1 1/2 pounds)
    • 2 cups chopped red onions
    • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
    • 1 cup chopped red cabbage
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño chiles 1 cube frozen pureed jalapeno chiles, seeds included.
    • 5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • Tortilla chips
    • Sour cream

    Preparation:

    Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add beets, onions, celery, cabbage, and chiles; sauté until celery is soft, about 10 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and lime juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

    Optional steps: meanwhile, make the dinner you’re actually going to eat tonight, because you didn’t allow enough time for dinner prep.  Once vegetables are tender, cool the soup overnight.  The following night, resume recipe.

    Working in small batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Heat the soup to serving temperature if you chose the optional steps.  Thin with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls and top with tortilla chips and sour cream.

    The Verdict:

    I enjoyed this soup.  Travis pointed out that it was approximately the same idea as borscht, which I’ve never had.  However, we all know that I love Mexican cuisine, so this is like the Latin version of the Russian classic.  It had a bit of spice, but the sour cream chilled that out.  Trav fried whole tortillas in vegetable oil for the garnish, and then broke them into pieces.  He and I disagree on the term “bite-sized” and as per normal, I would have preferred a smaller “bite” of tortilla as the garnish.  The taste was perfect though.  I’m not sure if we’ll repeat this particular recipe or not, since we do both love a roasted beet.  But this was a good use of our excess beets we’d accumulated.

    Tuesday: Change of Plans

    Trav & I got home from work & ballet and started cooking the Beet and Cabbage Soup that was scheduled for today.  However, we got to the step requiring us to simmer to vegetables for an hour and 15 minutes, and I balked.  I realized that we had all the ingredients for the Corn and Potato Chowder from just over a week ago (well, all the ingredients except for creamed corn, and we needed a trip to the store for cat food anyway).  This soup comes together quite a bit faster than the Beet and Cabbage Soup that we’d started cooking.  For the record, this time we used 6 slices of bacon…

    So we’ll finish tonight’s soup tomorrow, and we’ll see whether we actually roast any beets and carrots tomorrow.