Friday, January 30, 2009

My Quest for the Perfect Hot Chocolate

I love hot chocolate. I used to adore Carnation mix (with a shot of peppermint schnapps), but for some inexplicable reason, this particular brand has been phased out. This winter, I am embarking on a mission. I am going to find the perfect hot chocolate recipe. If you have never attempted an internet search for hot chocolate recipes, count yourself lucky. There are millions of them. I believe every person in the United States and Canada has posted two, maybe more recipes that "mom used to make."

I have in my head what I am looking for. It can't be too sweet. Nor too chocolately (Is that a word??). I want something creamy. Something I can drink all day long, but not have to spend a lot of time making. I don't want to have to drag out the sugar, cocoa, etc, etc. The mix should go in a jar where I can scoop it out and add milk or water. I would prefer a mix that can be added to water, but that is not a requirement. Actually, that is probably not an option since I don't really like powdered milk, but I am open to suggestion.

Something to make on a snow day.

Something to wind down with before bedtime.

So, my first attempt (from sounds exactly like what I want....

Creamy Hot Cocoa
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn't scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.

As I am cooking this up, I realize this recipe is almost exactly the same as my chocolate pudding recipe, without the cornstarch.

I rarely have half and half on hand, so I bought some specifically for this recipe. I also tried making the cocoa by substituting regular milk for the half and half.

Verdict: This recipe is VERY rich. Really good, but not really what I was looking for. It was a bit too chocolately for me. Too sweet, too rich. DD drank about four sips and then just ate her marshmallows. I think this would be a good treat every once in awhile, but not for every night.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Joy of Menu Planning

I love to cook. Before I had children, my hubby and I just ate whatever and whenever we felt like it. If we weren't hungry that evening, we (I) didn't cook. Now that others have been introduced into the equation, I have discovered that this is not acceptable. Someone is ALWAYS hungry. It had really never occurred to me to plan menus a week in advance. Several years ago, my mother sent me a link to the Fly Lady. For those of you who have not discovered this angel (or devil), this is a site that attempts to get you to set up routines and keep your house in order. I am in the stage the Fly Lady refers to as 'baby steps' and have been for several years. But the one thing that has really changed my life is her insistence on planning what to have for supper BEFORE supper time. Brilliant. I love it, and after a few stumbles (some last month), I have really discovered what a difference it makes in my week to have something like this in place. My 7 year old dear daughter (DD) and I sit down (most) every weekend and plan out the menu for the week. I then enter these onto a devoted Google calendar (I know, what a nerd) so as to have it available no matter where I am. I then .....oh my goodness... make out a grocery list. And I follow it when I am in the store!!! As I sit here right now, I have soup in the crock pot and biscuits in the oven. Supper is ready :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Welcome to My World

I collect recipes. I am obsessive about it. I blame my great-grandma. I was probably 8 years old when she handed me a spiral bound notebook and told me to cut out recipes and glue them in. So I did and I still continue to today. The internet has greatly aided me in this obsession. A year or so ago, my daughter suggested that we actually try some of the collected recipes, and Try It Tuesday was born. Every Sunday, we sit down and plan out a menu for the week. On Tuesdays, we go through my recipe drawer (yes, drawer) and pick out a new recipe to try. There has only been a few suppers that have not made it into the save pile. My great-grandma would be proud :)