Tag-Archive for ◊ Christmas ◊

26 Feb 2011 Chai Hot Chocolate

Snow in San Jose and San Francisco?  We all have our hopes up!  But even if it doesn’t snow, it’s going to be c-c-c-cold.  Freezing even.  On a weekend!  What great timing. Time to huddle in front of the fire with a good book, a quilt, and a cup of grown up hot chocolate, Chai Hot Chocolate.  I think you’ll like this. It’s familiar but different, and it’s a bit lighter than regular hot chocolate. A hot chocolate for grown ups! <sigh>  I enjoyed mine as I got started on my 2010 taxes…

This recipe is from my favorite Christmas Cookie Annual, Better Homes and Gardens “Christmas Cookies”, from the year 2000 (I have every issue since 1989!)

Chai Hot Chocolate

1 English tea bag
½ cup hot water
3 T. sugar
2 T. cocoa powder
2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
optional: whipped cream for serving

Place tea bag in a small saucepan, pour boiling water over it, cover, and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Stir in sugar and cocoa powder. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to blend. Heat to about 150 degrees, do not boil. Pour into 2 or 3 cups. Top with a bit of whipped cream, if desired. Sit down, relax, and enjoy!

Here’s hoping you fully enjoy your winter weekend!

13 Feb 2011 French Hot Chocolate

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: French Hot Chocolate!

This is soooo good, made with real cream and real chocolate–bearing no resemblance at all to that powdery mix in a paper packet. The serving ritual makes this really special. Pass a bowl of the chocolate cream mixture, then pass a pot of steaming hot milk (I like to put the milk in a teapot).  Let each person scoop a desired amount of the chocolate cream into their cup.  Pass the hot milk so the person can fill the cup up the rest of the way.  Make sure everyone has a spoon.  Stirring the hot chocolate is the fun part.  So is the sipping to taste.  Then maybe adding a bit more chocolate cream.  Then stirring some more and sipping some more.  Ahhhh.   So civilized.  So social.  So calming.  So special.

I was going with ¼ chocolate cream to ¾ hot milk, when one of my taste testers announced that half chocolate cream and half milk was just about right!  Serve this in small cups. This is rich. To cut the fat, I put non-fat milk in the teapot 🙂

I found this recipe at MakeAndTakes.

The chocolate cream mixture can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator, but you need to put the cream in a sieve, and then cover with plastic. This is, truly, the best hot chocolate you’ll ever make.

French Hot Chocolate

To make the chocolate cream:

1 cup chopped chocolate (your choice–milk, semisweet, bittersweet, or combination. You can also use chocolate chips!)
1 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 cups cold whipping cream

To serve:

2 quarts (8 cups) hot milk (go ahead and use non-fat or low-fat, it will make you feel better!)

To make chocolate cream: Heat chopped chocolate, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan, stirring until chocolate has melted.  Set mixture aside to cool. Beat the cream in a large mixing bowl until peaks form.  Slowly add the chocolate sauce to the whipped cream in a steady stream while beating.  After all the sauce has been added to the cream, beat for a few more seconds until the cream is thick.  Place in chocolate cream refrigerator until ready to use.  To keep chocolate cream for longer than an hour or two, place the chocolate cream in a sieve over a slightly larger bowl and cover with plastic warp.

To serve: Heat the desired quantity of milk (2 qts if using the whole batch of chocolate cream, and serving 10-12 people) until steaming (I heat the milk in the MW).  Pour hot milk into serving pitcher (I use a teapot).  Pass the chocolate cream, and spoon a bit of the into the bottom of cup or mug.  Add enough hot milk to fill cup.  Stir to combine.

One batch makes enough to serve 10-12 people (depending on size of cups or mugs).

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! Take the time to make an occasion of serving this hot chocolate.  You’ll be glad you did!

16 Jan 2011 Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts ruined every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the first thirty years of my life.  It was a rule, in my house, that everyone had to eat one Brussels sprout at Thanksgiving dinner and another at Christmas dinner. I dreaded Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.  Brussels Sprouts were bitter, soggy and all around YUCKY.  I would choke. I would gag.  My stomach would lurch.  I’d grimace.  My family would laugh, but show no mercy. It had to be swallowed. It usually took two bites. Although Brussels Sprouts were number one on my most hated foods list, there were other foods on the list, too: lima beans, pancakes, corn and maple syrup. But! Lima beans, pancakes, corn and maple syrup didn’t constitute a power struggle with my parents.  Brussels sprouts did.

I was thirty years old before I had the wherewithal to refuse to eat one more Brussels sprout.  When I put down my fork that Christmas, I didn’t pick it up again, for ANY Brussels sprout, for another twenty years.  Whatever possessed me to try Brussels sprouts again, I don’t know, but when I was fifty years old I found out Brussels sprouts could be rendered edible if they were fresh and roasted.  My parents used to serve frozen Brussels sprouts that had been boiled.  Please! Don’t do this!

Buy fresh Brussels sprouts, preferably on the stalk, and preferably after the first frost (Brussels sprouts that have been nipped by frost are sweeter).  Old green beans don’t taste good, neither do old carrots or old mushrooms.  Cook the Brussels sprouts soon after harvest, and roast them using the recipe below (which is based on a recipe I found at Epicurious.com in 2004).  They’re GOOD!

Of all my hated foods, the only one left on the list is lima beans. And I’m afraid that I raised my kids to hate them, too.  I told them they never, ever, ever have to eat a lima bean. Then wouldn’t you know, a very nice, very personable college boy takes a liking to one of my daughters.  After awhile, he invites her over to his parents farm to have lunch with his parents.  His parents are lima bean farmers, ROFL!!  She had lima beans for lunch!! Fortunately, the relationship hasn’t progressed to the point where I have been invited to meet the parents and have lima beans for lunch!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 oz. pancetta, minced (2 oz. thick, good quality bacon can be substituted)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine (or chicken broth)

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, toss together sprouts, pancetta, garlic, oil, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a shallow baking pan.  Make sure the Brussels sprouts are laying flat in a single layer.
  3. Roast Brussels sprouts for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Turn over, and roast for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Serve hot.  Makes four servings.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! Go ahead!  Make this recipe! You won’t be disappointed 🙂

21 Dec 2010 Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Tomorrow we’re making Christmas sugar cookies then heading out to see the Christmas lights.  It’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here–after two weeks of relentless pounding.  First external with a broken pipe and the yucky clean up mess under the house, then internal with some sort of stomach ailment and tomorrow I have to deal with some expensive car issues… But it’s nothing that decorating a few Christmas cookies and then going out to look at some wonderful Christmas lights won’t cure!

I’ve only been using this recipe for sugar cookies for one year, but my “Gild-the-lily” friend Louise has been using it for a many years.  It’s quite a gift she is giving us, sharing this recipe from King Arthur Flour. Click here for the source recipe http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sugar-cookies-recipe The cookies are supposed to have “crisp edges and soft middles” and they do! Last year my daughter and I decorated these cookies with royal icing (see picture above), but we actually preferred to eat the cookies undecorated!  How shocking is that! I suppose a  light sprinkling of colored sugar would fancy these up, but I wouldn’t over do it. This cookie is very good “as is”; chewy, buttery and sweet!

We used an intricate snowflake cookie cutter last year, and the dough handled it well. No problems cutting out the shape, and the dough kept the shape and proportions when baked.  Not all sugar cookie doughs do you know!  I rolled the cookies out in a mixture of powdered sugar and flour and then baked them on parchment paper (I found out the hard way that cookies rolled out in powdered sugar stick to the cookie sheets).

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract (I used additional vanilla because I don’t care for almond flavor, and I am sure lemon, orange and rum would all work)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375ºF. In medium bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. With mixer cream butter, sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy, usually about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts and egg. Add flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Form dough into discs, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour before rolling and cutting into shapes. Bake 8 minutes until just golden at edges.

Thanks so much for stopping by my kitchen today! Sing with me now… “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” La, la, laaaa!

11 Dec 2010 White Chocolate Spice Cookies

Cut out cookies are as much a part of Christmas as eggnog, gingerbread, and peppermint.  What’s a cookie platter without decorated trees, stars, ornaments,  santa hats, snowflake, stocking and mitten?  I have a variety of cut out cookies to share with you.  I’ve already posted a gingerbread cookie recipe, which is decorated with white Royal Icing.  Later in the week I will post a cream cheese cut out cookie recipe, which can be decorated with colored icing and sprinkles.  Today I am sharing a White Chocolate Spice Cookie.   The cookie deliciously spicy from black pepper in the dough, and deliciously decadent from the white chocolate decoration. It’s a cut out cookie for grown ups, although my 2 year old grandson likes them as much as I do. His mom is the one person I know who doesn’t like these cookies.  She says they are “weird”. Hmpff. I think she’s weird.

My friend Kayte introduced this cookie to me in December of 1996.  I still have the original recipe, which was clipped from a Sunset Magazine from that same month and year.  I changed the method of making this cookie. Sunset’s directions said to mix the cookie in the food processor.  I didn’t like that at all.  The dough didn’t feel right at all, and the cookie was a bit tough so I have changed the recipe to reflect the more traditional method of mixing cookie dough.

White Chocolate Spice Cookies

2 cups flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (make sure you have fresh pepper, the stuff from last year won’t produce the result you want)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
6 oz. high quality white chocolate, chopped (the cookies pictured above were decorated with melted Ghiradelli White Chocolate Chips)

  1. Combine flour, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, baking soda, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and allspice in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat softened butter for a minute or so.  Add in brown sugar and beat for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine water, lemon peel, and vanilla.  Then add to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Slowly add flour-spice mixture to butter-sugar-lemon mixture. Beat with electric mixer until all the flour has been incorporated.
  5. Divine dough into three balls, then flatten into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for an hour or so or until dough is firm enough to work with.
  6. Preheat oven to 325ºF and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Roll dough into sheets approx 1/4 inch thick (use minimal amount of flour) and cut with cookie cutters.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheeets
  8. Bake at 325ºF for 15 minutes or until cookie is a pale brown color .  Remove cookies to rack to cool.
  9. Melt chopped white chocolate on 50% power in MW for 2 or 3 minutes.
  10. Dip each cookie into chocolate, covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the cookie.  When all cookies have been dipped.  Use a fork to flick remaining white chocolate over undipped portion of cookie.
  11. Chill to harden the white chocolate.
  12. Store cookies in an airtight container.  Can be frozen for longer storage.  Makes 5-7 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutters used.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! I hope you enjoy this cookie, it’s been one of my favorites for thirteen years now, so I heartily recommend it!

10 Dec 2010 Peppermint Bark Cookies

Mmmmm…, the flavors of Christmas! For me they are gingerbread, eggnog and peppermint.  Last December Bon Appetit magazine featured this Peppermint Bark Cookie. It’s a shortbread base topped with melted chocolate, crushed candy canes, and then drizzled with white chocolate.  When cooled this bar cookie is broken into irregular pieces. Yes, a bar cookie!  This is a very easy cookie to make!

I can’t think of anything more Christmas-y than a plate of Gingerbread Folk, Egg Nog Spritz, and Peppermint Bark Cookies…, with Tangerine Sugar Cookies, Jam Pinwheels, Caramel Bars, Chocolate-Caramel Coconut Bars AND my soon-to-be-posted White Chocolate Spice Cookies, too 🙂

Peppermint Bark Cookies

2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces (approx 1 cup) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (try to use a better chocolate than chocolate chips)
½ – ¾ cup finely chopped red-and-white striped hard peppermint candy canes ( 6 – 8 candy canes)
3 oz. (½ cup) white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina–no white chocolate chips if you want really, really good flavor)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a jelly roll pan or quarter sheet pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan.
  3. Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy about 3 minutes more. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
  5. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork. Bake until light golden brown and slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes (check after 20, mine got overcooked).
  6. Place pan on rack; immediately sprinkle chopped chocolate over hot shortbread. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using small offset spatula, spread chocolate over top of cookie in thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped peppermint candies over the melted chocolate.
  7. Melt white chocolate (I put in a small freezer Ziplock and MW-ed on 50% power for 90 sec. Squished to melt, cut a hole in corner of bag and drizzled over chocolate and candy canes). Drizzle white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
  8. Using paper overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan and transfer to work surface. Using large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in refrigerator in airtight containers between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper.

The cookie plate is looking spectacular now, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen so often.  This is FUN!