Often after having experienced a very social Thanksgiving dinner (or not), I look forward to a quiet Christmas dinner. The menus for my Christmas dinner sometimes included ham baked with cloves and pineapples and a range of complimentary sides. Sometimes, . . .Read more
Assembling an appetizer tray is almost as much fun as sampling its delicious treats. Many appetizer trays are designed to host a large group of people.Read more
You don’t have to wait for pumpkin season to roll around to enjoy a pumpkin pie coconut smoothie!! I seldom visit the canned areas of a grocery store but to make this smoothie, I gladly shop from the canned section. I like to use pure pumpkin and canned coconut milk that . . .Read more
Dining alone for Thanksgiving this year? So am I. And I shall enjoy my Thanksgiving Dinner to the max with my girl, Susie, a Portuguese water dog.
My Thanksgiving dinner menu depends on how I feel and is often based on one of three basic menus that I follow or alter. Here are the three menus to inspire you. Follow a menu or make a substitution with your own favorites. Most important is to just have fun!!Read more
Comfort food: Consoles. Gives a feeling of well-being. Provokes nostalgic memories of happy times. Whether it's sugar or carbohydrates, with the arrival of cool weather, comfort food can warm the body.Read more
Celebrate Halloween with this Witch's Brew Vodka Martini.
It will blow your witch socks off!!
But you can keep them on by heavily munching on a
cheese and fruit tray idea.
Never had a hot chocolate party? Not even after a snowball fight? Perhaps this hot chocolate recipe will inspire you.
My goal here was to create a basic dark hot chocolate recipe that both children and adults could enjoy. But for us adults I wanted to be able to "bump up" the flavor with choices from a variety of alcohol flavors.
First, I must attribute the use of half and half milk along with whole milk to an Ina Garten hot chocolate recipe. The half and half adds a bit of creaminess to the flavor. I always keep Dutch processed cocoa powder on the shelf, so that too was an easy ingredient to include in my recipe.
The basic recipe Ingredients for four:
2 Tablespoons dark Dutch processed cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons boiling hot water
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half milk
6 ounces dark semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional when using other flavors)
Garnish with toasted marshmallows, optional (But I strongly encourage this garnish!)
Heat the whole milk and the half and half milk into a sauce pot on medium-high heat. While you are waiting for the milk to get very hot, pour the boiling hot water over the cocoa powder and mix until very smooth. When the milk becomes very hot but just before it boils, add the chopped dark semi-sweet chocolate and remove the sauce pot from the heat. Using a whisk, start with a slow stir and then increase to a vigorous whisk as the chocolate melts.
Add the blended dark cocoa to the mixture. Continue to whisk. Add sugar and vanilla. Continue to whisk to get a smooth mixture with little to no tiny chocolate specks. Your chocolate will cool a bit during the mixing, so return it to the heat to make it a hot chocolate just before serving.
For flavors added, I started by replacing the vanilla extract for each flavor. (I did test with including the vanilla and found that to be a nice option as well.) The flavors I tested were peppermint extract plus Peppermint Schnapps; almond extract plus Amaretto liqueur; and orange extract plus Grande Marnier liqueur.
One of my most favorite flavors is the peppermint:
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 shot of Peppermint Schnapps for every 8 ounces of hot chocolate. Add the Schnapps to the cup or glass of hot chocolate and stir.
Garnish with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy
My other most favorite flavor is Disronno Amaretto:
1 teaspoon almond extract (This is optional. I tried the Ameretto without the almond extract and with it. Loved both of them.)
1 shot of Disronno Amaretto (Add the liqueur to the cup or glass of hot chocolate.)
Okay, I confess. As you can see in the image below, I grabbed a homemade biscotti to dunk into my Ameretto hot chocolate. And yes, I loved it, especially the part where I finished off this wonderful ritual just drinking the Ameretto hot chocolate.
My least favorite is hot chocolate with Grand Marnier liqueur, although I love and I mean LOVE Grand Marnier. But for those interested in trying it out:
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 shot Grand Marnier liqueur
If you want to experiment a hot chocolate with other alcoholic flavors, you may want to try a bourbon or a brandy.
For another but non-alcoholic flavor with hot chocolate, experiment with caramel, such as adding a caramel extract or caramel syrup. Just make sure to use a syrup in the hot chocolate, such as what is used in coffee rather than the heavier and thicker caramel topping used to garnish whip cream or ice cream, like that in the image below
Why not leave one of the party flavors above just for Santa Claus! Who knows, perhaps you’ll get your request. Here’s mine:
Ready for a hot chocolate with party flavors now?
I hope so or just go with the hot chocolate.
And then, don't forget, share your hot chocolate experiences with my readers and me.
We'd love to hear from you! Really!
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Anytime of the year is a good time for a hearty corn chowder! But it seems particularly tasty in the fall as we adjust to cool days and nights. This corn chowder is seasoned with crispy bacon, extra sharp cheddar cheese and then spiked with bits of sun-dried tomatoes.
A bowl of hearty corn chowder is then garnished with lots of delicious crispy chopped bacon.
Tool: 4-5 quart dutch oven, preferably cast iron
7 slices of fried bacon, diced
2 small yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons of butter
3 Tablespoons of flour
3 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of salt, preferably Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper (or add fresh ground white pepper at serving)
1 large white potato, diced (russet or Yukon gold, whichever is available)
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped 2.5 ounces (73 grams)
2 pounds frozen corn (453 grams each). If you use fresh corn, you'll need 10 ears. You can also use a mixture of small white corn and yellow corn.
2 cups of half-and-half milk
1 cup (83 grams) of white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Optional: 3/4 cups of white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded for additional garnish
Optional: If you like a little heat, add cayenne pepper to taste.
In a 5 quart stock pot, fry bacon to a brown crisp. Leaving about 1-2 tablespoons of the oil in the pot, remove bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add onions and cook to almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Push onions and garlic to one side of the pot.
Melt butter to just a few bubbles. Add flour and stir to create a roux. Add salt and pepper. Add chicken stock and bring back onions and garlic back into the mixture. Add potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add corn, sun-dried tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add half-and-half milk and cheese. Cook for about 5 minutes until cheese melts.
While chowder is cooking its last 5 minutes, chop the bacon. Serve chowder in a soup bowl or soup cup. Garnish with bacon. For a more cheesier flavor, garnish with the additional shredded cheese.
This corn chowder recipe serves 6-8 people, so there is plenty to share with friends and freeze to eat another day.
You can have fun making this moist pumpkin spice cake all alone or have even more fun making it a family project, especially with the kids. You won't be disappointed. The recipe includes a homemade pumpkin spice and a delicious sour cream frosting. Topped with roasted salted pumpkin seeds and a dash of lemon zest, the flavors with have you going back for more!
Makes 6 cups of batter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bundt cake pan with a non-stick oil and flour mixture. You can substitute this by coating the inside of the pan with a thin layer of butter. Add and shake a thin layer of flour. Be sure it spreads throughout the pan and then shake out any excess flour.
Ingredients for moist pumpkin spice cake:
2 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (see spice ingredients below)
1 - 15 oz can pure pumpkin (NOT the pumpkin pie mixture!)
1/2 cup buttermilk (well shaken)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 TBSP (1 stick) softened butter
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
Pumpkin Spice (inspired from a Betty Crocker recipe) Simply mix all ingredients
1-1/2 TBLS ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp ground cloves
Sour Cream Frosting (Yields 1 cup):
1/3 cup butter, slightly melted
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Equipment: 10" bundt cake, not the tall 10" bundt cake but one that has a lower height. I had used a 6 cup but small height bundt cake. Three separate mixing bowls. Whether using a hand mixer or a stand mixer. reserve the largest bowl for creaming the butter and sugar. The final step for making the batter is to add in alternate steps, the dry and pumpkin mixtures to the creamed mixture.
Mix all the dry ingredients in bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the ingredients for the pumpkin mixture.
Using the last and largest bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the brown sugar to the butter 1/2 cup at a time while mixing the ingredients. Then, while continuing to mix ingredients, add in one egg at a time, ending with the egg yolk. Your creamed mixture should be light and fluffy.
Finally, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, alternate adding about 1/4 of the flour and pumpkin mixtures. Start with adding the flour, end with adding the flour. Spoon the batter into a bundt cake pan. Lightly shake it to ensure it evenly spreads throughout the pan. Place in the center of the oven and bake 45 minutes Test the doneness of the cake with a tooth pick or long skewer. When the tooth pick comes out clean (or just with a tiny bit of dough), the cake should be done. (If you are using a spiral bundt cake, be sure to insert the long tooth pick all the way down to the peaks and down the sides of the pan.)
Blend together all ingredients until smooth. After the bundt cake has cooled, dribble frosting over cake. Top with the roasted salted pumpkin seeds and lemon zest.