Tag-Archive for ◊ Valentine’s Day ◊

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!

23 Feb 2011 Champagne Cupcakes

My daughter recently catered a birthday dinner for a very bubbly, champagne loving girl.  She knew Champagne Cupcakes had to be on the menu!  The good news is that these are great cupcakes not only for a birthday dinner, but for an Oscar party, too! Aren’t we all going to an Oscar party on Sunday?? They’re also good for many other champagne worthy events:  Birthday Party, Engagement Party, Shower, Wedding, New Year’s Eve, Promotion, Retirement, Bon Voyage, Welcome Home, Mortgage Burning, Mortgage Acquisition,  Crowning of Miss America… 🙂

This recipe makes a very light and not-so-sweet cupcake.  The champagne flavor really comes through if you brush champagne on the cakes before adding the frosting. This was my daughter Hannah’s idea, it’s not in the original recipe.  She also added more champagne to the frosting (tut-tut-tut, says Mom…)!  The original recipe called for coloring, but not being a food coloring fan, Hannah omitted it.  “In retrospect”, she said, “it would have been nice to have a slightly pink colored frosting.  After all, I did use pink champagne!”

Champagne Cupcakes

For Cupcakes:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup pink champagne, plus extra (approx ½ cup) for brushing onto baked cupcakes (I used Chandon Rose)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4-5 drops red food coloring (optional)

For Frosting

  • 1 1lb box powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ¼ cup pink champagne
  • 3-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • candy pearls (I found these in the cake decorating section of the grocery store)

To Make Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs whites with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Set aside. (If you have only one bowl for your electric mixer, you will have to remove the egg whites to another bowl).
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer,  cream the 2/3 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.  Add in ½ of the champagne, beat until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing until fully incorporated, then add the remaining ½ cup of champagne, beating until combined. Beat in the remaining flour mixture and the food coloring, mixing until combined.
  6. Gently fold in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter and mix until fully incorporated. Fold in remaining egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each cupcake liner 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.
  9. Once cupcakes have cooled, poke 8-10 holes in each cupcake using a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, coat each cupcake with champagne.

To Make Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and champagne.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and food coloring, mixing well until the frosting is smooth. (If too stiff add more champagne, if too runny add more powdered sugar.)
  3. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip (or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off), and decorate cupcakes.
  4. Top with candy pearls.

Makes: 24 cupcakes.  Keeps well for a day or two.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  And thank you to my daughter, Hannah, for testing this recipe and sharing the cupcakes with me.  Guess what I am taking to my Oscar Night Party?  Yep!  If you’d like to take these to a special event, but don’t have time to make them, contact  Hannah, she is a fledgling caterer, you know!

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!

10 Feb 2011 Symphony Brownies

Who bothers making brownies from scratch any more?  Bargain hunters pick up boxes of brownie mix for a dollar. Brownie gourmets with no budget constraints are picking up  boxes of Ghiradelli Double Fudge Brownies.  Either choice is cheaper than making a batch of brownies from scratch.  If you are happy in your box brownie life, read no more.  If you dare to dream of something beyond box brownies, read on. I have something special to share…

I’ve  set a boxed brownie next to a home made brownie.   I know the difference.  It’s huge.  Boxed brownies are dark, oily cakes. By no stretch of the imagination can they be called brownies. Scratch brownies are intense.  Fudgey.  Crackly on top.  Rich.  Pure chocolate. Buttery.  So I bother to make brownies from scratch.  Once you set your box brownie down next to your made from scratch one, I think you will too.

My daughter Abby made four types of from scratch brownies recently, and experimented a bit with the method.  The tip for mixing brownies from this month’s Good Housekeeping magazine proved to be a winner.  You know that melt-in-your-mouth, skinny meringue, crackly top on top of a really good brownie?  The secret is to beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is a very pale yellow and almost tripled in volume!  This means beating the eggs and sugar for up to ten minutes with an electric mixer! So, not only is making making brownies from scratch more expensive than buying a box of brownie mix, it also takes a bit longer to mix up. Are you turning back to your boxed brownie?  I didn’t think so!

Here’s a great recipe to get you started baking brownies from scratch.  This recipe has a long pedigree.  Abby found it at My Baking Addiction and that website specified that the recipe was inspired by Paula Deen and adapted from Allrecipes.com.  The recipe gets it’s name from the Hershey Symphony Bars, which are layered in the middle of the brownie.  Abby made hers with a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar (her favorite).  I am sure you can use any chocolate bar in the middle.  The name of the brownie is kind of cool though, so I kept it 🙂

The original recipe specified baking this in a 8×8 inch pan, which Abby did.  I found the brownies to be too thick and rich, and a bit too gooey, too.  The third batch found it’s way into a 9×13 inch pan and we were much happier with the results.

Symphony Brownies

1 ½ cups white sugar
3 eggs
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate; coarsely chopped
¾ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 (4.5 ounce) Symphony Chocolate bars; broken into squares (then I cut each square into thirds)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. With an electric mixer beat the sugar and eggs for ten minutes.
  3. Microwave chopped unsweetened chocolate and butter large bowl at 50% power for 3-4 minutes or until butter is melted, stir after every minute.
  4. With the mixer still going, stir the melted chocolate into the beaten eggs and sugar.  Stir in the vanilla and salt. Gradually add in flour and stir until just combined.
  5. Spread ½ the batter (about 2 cups) into the prepared pan.
  6. Evenly space the pieces of  Symphony chocolate over the batter in the pan.
  7. Add the remaining  brownie batter over the Symphony chocolate pieces.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes; do not over bake.
  9. Cool brownies in pan.  Allow to cool completely before cutting. Another hint, cut brownies with a plastic knife!  Really!  You’ll be amazed how nicely plastic knives cut brownies!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Here’s hoping that you make some brownies–from scratch–for Valentine’s Day <3

08 Feb 2011 Milky Way Rice Krispie Treats

One more week until Valentine’s Day.  I wonder if I can pull together a week of chocolate posts?  LOL.  Of course I can!  Is there any ingredient I like more? Aside from chocolate (and coffee), what is my private, secret, shameful indulgence?  Rice Krispie treats.  I can’t be left in a room alone with them. Terrible, horrible-immoral-things happen.  So what better way to start out my Valentine’s Day posts than with a recipe for a chocolate Rice Krispie Treats?!

I try every recipe for  Rice Krispie Treats that I run across.  I have quite a collection of Rice Krispie recipes: Coconut, Browned Butter, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate-Cherry.  Sadly, not all the recipes I’ve tried have worked.  The coffee ones and the butterscotch ones, both made with pudding, were major disappointments.  Not this one though.  I found this recipe on a British food site, The Greedy Gourmet. These, these my friends, are winners. Only one problem though, there are no marshmallows in them! =:O  In fact, the entire recipe has only three ingredients! (I might try to remake this recipe with some marshmallows at a future date  because I do miss some of that marshmallow gooeyness.)  With no marshmallows, these Rice Krispie Treats are more crispy than gooey, but they are ohhhhh soooo good!

The original recipe was made with Mars bars, which is a UK chocolate bar very similar to a Milky Way bar, so I subbed Milky Way bars. The original recipe also called for slicing some additional Mars/Milky Way bars and laying the slices on top of the treats, then covering the entire thing with some melted chocolate.  I didn’t do that.  Five melted Milky Way bars stirred into 4 cups of Rice Kripies sounded decadent enough for me.

Milky Way Rice Krispie Treats

  • 5 Milky Way Bars (about 11 oz. total)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 cups Rice Krispies
  1. Prepare a 8×8 or a 9×9 baking dish by spraying with Pam or smearing with butter.
  2. Pour 4 cups Rice Krispies into a large heat proof bowl and set aside.
  3. Chop the Milky Way bars and place in a small saucepan with the butter.  Over low heat stir the Milky Way bars and the butter until both are melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Remove from heat.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the Rice Krispies and stir well.  Coat as many Rice Krispies as possible with the chocolate mixture.
  5. Pour the Rice Krispie mixture into prepared square pan.  Press lightly on mixture to remove air pockets and to level out and flatten mixture.
  6. Let set.
  7. Cut into serving sized squares and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Maybe you’ll put some of these in your kids lunch box this week? And, maybe, for Valentine’s Day dinner, you’ll consider a recipe for Hot Chocolate Lava Cakes.  My daughter made them for us last year…, yummm!  This year, she made four kinds of brownies.  I’ll be posting the two winners shortly (the bacon ones will not be posted…)

03 Feb 2011 Caramel Corn

Ooooh, Caramel Corn!   Isn’t it lovely?  You know I am not talking about that stale, pale, powdery stuff out of a bright and cheerful tin.  No, no, no, no, no!  I am talking about real Caramel Corn, the homemade variety.  Caramel Corn made with love.  Lots of love.  Lots and lots of love.  Truthfully, Caramel Corn is a bit of a  bother to make.  It’s going to take a commitment.  It’s going to take some time.  And it is going to make a mess in your kitchen.  It’s kinda sorta along the same lines as giving birth  (Forgive me for this analogy). At first bite – that first crisp, sweet crunch – the pain of bringing it forth will be forgotten.

Here’s my recipe.  I think I first got it from Taste of Home about, oh, maybe, five years ago.  Over the years, after reading every other Caramel Corn recipe, and testing out and then incorporating the best tips, I have improved upon their recipe.  It’s still a mess to make, but, using this recipe has a guaranteed outcome.  I know this recipe works.

There are a lot of occasions coming up where Caramel Corn would be very welcome.  What’s happening back East right now?  Snow Days!  How about a Movie Night?  I just had friends over to watch a few of this years “Best Picture” Academy Awards nominees.  Then, in a few weeks it will be the Academy Awards themselves.  Let’s not forget abut Super Bowl Sunday: the best reason on the planet for the best snack layout of the year!  Touchdown! And, Valentine’s Day. Just pop Caramel Corn in those heart motif bags and you’re all set. Your Valentine will melt in your arms…

Need some more reasons to make Caramel Corn?  (Tough crowd today…) Caramel Corn can be made ahead, way ahead, like a week or more.  Once made, Caramel Corn is no more bother.  Just pour it in a bowl on put it on the table.  No refrigeration.  No reheating.  No slicing. No spreading.  No dip.  No utensils. Leftovers, highly unlikely, but if there are any, will keep for up to two weeks. The real reason to make Caramel Corn though?  The taste.  That sweet, crisp crunch.

Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popping corn (divided use)
  • ¼ cup vegetable, canola, or corn oil (divided use)
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions, no margarine)
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Set out two large, rimmed baking sheets and one clean, large brown grocery bag.
  2. First, make the popcorn.  You’ll have to do this in two batches.  Get out your biggest pan (I use my stock pot) with the tightest fitting lid (if the lid is glass, you’ll have it made in the shade).
  3. Note:  I make my popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove, in some hot oil, as the directions below reflect.  I am guessing you could also make the popcorn in an air popper or in the microwave.  If you choose to go down that path, skip the popping directions below, use your own method, and have about 16 cups of popped popcorn warming in the oven when you start on the caramel part of this recipe.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan.  When oil is hot, stir in ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels.  Put the lid on and SHAKE the pan like crazy. After 2-3 minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop.  Keep shaking the pan!  When you can see (if you have a glass lid) or hear the corn has stopped popping for 2 seconds or more, remove pan from heat.
  5. Pour the popcorn onto a baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  6. Make the second batch of popcorn.  Wipe out the hot pan and repeat the steps above with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels. The popcorn will cook faster this time around because your stock pot should already be hot.
  7. Put the second batch of popcorn onto the second baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  9. Stir brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt into the melted butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Now, STOP STIRRING.  Let mixture boil, undisturbed, for four minutes.
  10. Remove warm popcorn from oven.
  11. Pour ½ of hot syrup over each tray of popcorn.  Stir to combine.
  12. You can skip this step if you want, but I find it helpful.  Pour the partially coated popcorn into a clean brown paper grocery bag.  Fold over the top to seal, then vigorously shake the bag to evenly coat with the caramel syrup.
  13. Pour the popcorn back onto two baking sheets.
  14. Place popcorn in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir to evenly coat caramel over all kernels.  Return pans to oven, switching pan locations.  Repeat three more times, so the popcorn bakes for 45 minutes total.
  15. Remove pans from oven and let cool.
  16. Serve, or store in air tight container until ready to serve.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you like the Caramel Corn. Want to serve it with Maple Bacon popcorn?  Stop by again, I have that recipe in my line up. Enjoy!