Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

About That Hot Chocolate…

It was delicious! 

Oh, wait.  What hot chocolate?  This.  The hot chocolate recipe I alerted you to back in January.  The hot chocolate for which I promised a response almost three months ago, before I took a hiatus from regular blogging and reduced my internet time altogether.  Yep, that hot chocolate.

It was fabulous and gets two thumbs-up from this hot chocolate lover.  Now that spring is here and hot chocolate weather is behind us, you might be wishing that I had provided this information a bit sooner.  Don’t fret!  I’ve got a couple of ideas for enjoying this sweet chocolate drink.

1.  Crank your thermostat down to sixty, dig out your flannel jammies and enjoy a cup.

2. Drink it cold. I know, it takes the hot out of hot chocolate, but is the point really to have a hot drink, or to drink chocolate?

It’s good to be back!



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I’m a fan of all things hot chocolate–as long as it’s not poured from a packet and mixed with hot water.  Simply Recipes has this recipe posted with several suggestions for delicious variations.  Unfortunately, I am not currently sipping a cup of this nectar because

  1. I don’t have enough bittersweet chocolate on hand.
  2. I have neither a vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick or an orange for zesting. (And that’s only one of the versions I want to try!)
  3. It’s 19 degrees outside and not even the possibility of the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted will get me out the door until it warms up to at least 25 degrees.

So if you happen to have the ingredients on hand, try it and let me know what you think.  I know I will have a response in less than twenty-four hours!


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This week I tried recipes from a few of my go-to girls.  If you’re in a meal-planning rut, or simply need to avoid doing something tedious but infinitely more important, the following reviews might be just what you need!

  • Cranberry Applesauce, by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes:  I don’t know what was better, the fragrance of cranberriesthis sauce as it cooked or the sweet, slightly tart taste of the final product.  Oh, it was delicious!  Three more points in its favor: it was quick, easy, and the kids loved it.  From start to finish it took about thirty minutes, twenty of which were hands-off cooking time.  I served it warm with a pork roast, accompanied by mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and these rolls…
  • Buttered Rosemary Rolls, by Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman:    I bought a 12-inch, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet just to make this recipe and it was worth every penny. The melted butter slid down between the rolls to the bottom of the pan where it worked with the hot skillet to give an almost crispy texture to the bottom of the rolls.  I used the frozen Rodes rolls that Ree recommends  and a coarse-grained sea salt that can be found in any grocery store.  I can still taste that first salty, buttery bite.  Bread, butter, rosemary and sea salt.  Is there anything left to say?
  • Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas by Lisa at Homesick Texan:   I’ve been eager to make this recipe for

    Photo courtesy of Homesick Texan

    several weeks. When our family dined at a “Mexican Food Restaurant” near our new home the other night, I knew it was time to make these enchiladas. What a hit!  The filling is pretty basic, so it’s all about the sauce.  The texture was pleasantly creamy and neither too thick nor too thin.  But best of all was the perfectly balanced flavors.   The combination of freshly roasted tomatillos (you can also used canned), hint of cumin, and fresh cilantro lifted it far above the pale, over-salted sauces too often found on a Tex-Mex plate.

How much did we love these dishes?  Well, they’ve all earned a place in the family cookbook.  And that’s as good as it gets around here!

Happy eating!


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Chili Weather

 Chili PowderAs soon as there’s a discernible chill in the air, I hoist my crockpot onto the kitchen counter and dump in a few ingredients for one of our family favorites, a hearty meat-and-bean chili.  There are a lot of reasons to love this recipe, not the least of which is that it reminds us of the lovely couple, Tony and Marie, who first shared it with us. 

But, since you don’t know Tony and Marie, you might be more intrigued by these facts:  it’s tasty, easy and economical.  And that’s a culinary trinity that’s certain to get me into the kitchen! 

Please, give it a try and let me know what you think.


Crockpot Chili

This makes a large batch.  With two adults and three young children, we always have enough left over for at least one more meal.  So I usually make this once a month and freeze half of it to enj0y a couple of weeks later.   One of my favorite uses for the leftovers is Taco Salad.  Delicious!

1.5 lbs lean ground beef or turkey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3  (15.5 oz.) cans beans, drained (I use all black beans, but you can use a different type or three different kinds altogether — it’s your chili!)

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chiles (such as Ortega)

2 Tbs. cumin (ta-da! the star ingredient, here!)

1 tsp. chili powder (or more, to taste)

Garnishes and sides:  shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, pico de gallo, saltine crackers, sweet yellow cornbread, Fritos, Tortilla chips, warm corn or flour tortillas

Put it Together:  Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium heat.  After the meat starts to brown, add in the chopped onion.  Dump the meat and onion mixture and the remaining ingredients into the crockpot and cook 6-8 hours on low heat.  If you want this to be ready a little faster, cook the meat all the way through before adding it to the crockpot, then heat all ingredients together for 3-4 hours on high.




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Chocolate BarsDid you see that movie several years ago with  Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and a whole lot of luscious-looking chocolate?  Chances are that if you went into the theatre with an indifferent attitude towards chocolate, at the end of the movie you went straight to concessions and bought one of everything that had chocolate as an ingredient.  (I’ve never been indifferent to chocolate, so I was able to wait until I reached the privacy of my home!)

One of my all-time favorite treats is hot chocolate.  I adored it as a child when my Dad mixed it up on cold mornings and now I fix it for my kids (and myself) on cold mornings, afternoons and evenings. 

This is our recipe.  I know you’ll like it. 



Hot Chocolate

For each cup of chocolate:

2 heaping tsp. of sugar

1 heaping tsp. of powdered, unsweetened chocolate

a teeny-tiny pinch of salt

1 c. of milk

a drop of vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients. Then add the milk, a little at a time, stirring until you have achieved a smooth  mixture.  Stir in the rest of the milk, place the saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until thoroughly hot.

Make it even better:  Oh, the possibilities! I like to make it light on the sugar, with a tad more chocolate and then swirl in some heavy cream after I ladle it into each cup.  The kids like to have a candy-cane swizzle stick to stir around and spice up their drink.  Adults like to spice their drink with something a little more grown-up.  Then there are the traditional toppings:  marshmallows, marshmallow cream, whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon…

If you have a suggestion to make a good thing even better, or you have a beloved hot chocolate recipe of your own, please share!

Happy sipping,


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CookbooksJust give me a good cookbook.

I like food.  I like thinking about food. I like to think about what I have eaten, what I am planning to eat, what I would like to eat and even what other people are eating.

Ah, let’s hear it for sensory memory.  Recalling a favorite ingredient or succulent dish is not a cold mental exercise.  It evokes the memory of fragrance, texture and taste.  Even better: memories that marry good food and important relationships.

The best book on my kitchen shelf captures this combination between its checkered cover.  Beverages like the simple Hot Chocolate that my children beg for as soon as the outside temperature dips below 90.  Dinner favorites, like the homemade pizza crust upon which countless Family Pizza Nights have been built. 

I began this  collection when my husband and I were dating.  It was nearing Christmas.  I was a poor college student and  wanted to give him a unique  gift that cost approximately nothing.  We occasionally enjoyed home-cooked meals together in his apartment so I decided to record the recipes for some of our favorites and  include a brief note about something memorable associated with each dish. 

One of the first entries was for the Chicken Provencal that my not-yet-husband made for me one night.  I took a study break so that we could enjoy dinner together and I could watch one of his favorite movies for the first time.  The romantic memory associated with this lovely dish?

“…We watched Spartacus while we ate.  I won’t soon forget biting into a moist, tender piece of Chicken Provencal while Laurence Olivier’s character speared the Ethiopian.”

 Yummy!  We have yet to have that dish again.  But it was a fun night and the memory is captured forever.  (Which is more than I can say about one child’s first birthday party.) And if we  ever go twenty-four months without watching Spartacus, I might try making Chicken Provencal myself.

There’s no  snobbery in this cookbook, by the way.  Among the homemade goodies are recipes for favorite treats, like a store-bought fried pie:


1 all-night convenient store


About 12:00 a.m., when you’re in the middle of an all-night study session, sneak down to the aforementioned store and buy a couple of fried pies.  Optional garnish:  one quart of chocolate milk.


Please, don’t worry.  I have no plans to turn this into a recipe blog.

Whether it’s homemade chocolate mousse served in delicate dessert cups with orange-scented whipping cream, or a roll of refrigerated cookie dough and a couple of spoons, this cookbook is all about the foods we love and the unique (or mundane) occasions and private jokes that make the memory of eating them special.

Eat joyfully!

(And please tell me what you’re having so that I can savor it too.)


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My Go-To Girls

Get-Well-Quickly Tomato Soup

Recipe by Homesick Texan, photo courtesy of  Homesick Texan


When the question

What do I want to make for such-and-such occasion?

elicits thundering silence from the far reaches of my brain, I head straight to one of four websites, each of them fun to read, easily searchable and well-maintained.


Simply Recipes :   Owner Elise Bauer offers a succinct, well-written introduction to each item and an excellent photo of the finished dish.   A few posts that have inspired me:   Chicken Salad With Tarragon, Asparagus, Tuscan Scrambled Eggs.


Smitten Kitchen:  Deb cooks in her tiny New York kitchen apartment and presents her recipes with chatty back story and lovely photos illustrating various stages  on the way to her final product.  What has captured my attention?  Best Birthday Cake, Granola Bars, Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta.


The Pioneer Woman:  Ree Drummond is not exclusively a food blogger, but gives a lot of love to the food section of her website.  Writing with a light hand and good humor, she shares recipes beloved by herself and her family, each one illustrated with step-by-step photos of the preparation process.  I can’t wait to try:  Spaghetti With Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes, Cinnamon Rolls 101, Olive Cheese Bread


(Photo courtesy of Homesick Texan)

Homesick Texan:  This Texas ex-pat lives in New York City and indulges her passion for food and photography in a blog highlighting food from the Lone Star State.  She provides pleasant introductions to her recipes, often featuring family kitchen memories  associated with the dish at hand.  I’ve enjoyed:  Salsa Salvation:  Ninfa’s Green Sauce, Everything’s Better With Biscuits,  What’s In Your English Pea Salad?


Are you familiar with these sites?  Check them out and let me know what looks good to you.  Do you have a favorite food blogger?  Please share!  I’m always eager to learn a new source for culinary inspiration.


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