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Friday, December 19, 2014

Chew on This | Homemade Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Still in need of a most excellent gift for family? Friends? Neighbors? Co-workers? Teachers? 
Running out of ideas? Running out of time? How about giving Homemade Hot Chocolate on a Stick? Making these adorable hot chocolate squares is super easy. They make an absolutely delicious cup of cocoa. And, they're a thoughtful, homemade touch no one can resist.

One batch makes between 25 -36 hot chocolate squares, depending on how you cut them. So you'll be getting a lot of gift recipients checked off your list with one batch. I wrap each square individually (one serving) and give at least two squares per recipient. To make the gift extra special, I purchased mugs, put the sticks in them, and wrapped them beautifully.

Happy gifting!!


Here's our recipe:

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
(recipe adapted via King Arthur Flour)
1/2 C heavy cream
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2 1/2 C dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1  1/4 C semisweet chocolate chips

8x8" pan lined with parchment paper
25-36 popsicle sticks
cocoa powder -  for dusting

In a sauce pan, combine your heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper over medium-low heat. Vinously whisk the mixture, to incorporate the spices. Heat mixture until steaming. Remove the pan from the heat and add in your chocolates. Allow the chocolates to sit and melt in the milk mixture for about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, return the pan to the burner over low heat. Whisk the mixture continuously until the chocolate is completely melted. The chocolate should be thick and shiny.

Pour the chocolate into your prepared pan. Level the chocolate with a knife and allow it to set up overnight. When ready, turn the chocolate out onto a cutting board. Cut the chocolate into squares and dust tops with cocoa powder. Insert sticks into the top of each chocolate square. Wrap each individual square in plastic wrap or a small plastic bag. Gift away!!

*Make sure to give your recipient directions on how to use their Hot Chocolate Stick! 
Place a Hot Chocolate stick into a mug of hot milk, stir, stir, stir....enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chew on This | Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts

The Boy found one of his Christmas gifts. Well, it was more of an accidental discovery, he didn't do it on purpose. I had sneakily hidden the present, the game Risk, under a pile of clothes that needed to be folded and put away. I knew it would be very, very unlikely anyone would discover it there. Amazingly, I was incorrect.

The Boy was in awe of the fact that he had found one of his gifts, until I convincingly said that I had purchased the game for someone else. I didn't smile, I didn't blink, and the words were spoken in a nonchalant way, so I was pretty sure I was in the clear. I sealed the deal by saying that I had found out that the would-be recipient already had the game and I would have to return it to the store.

It worked, he no longer thought the gift was for him! Yahoo! Yet he then spent the next fifteen minutes trying to sell me on the idea of keeping the game for him. "Please Mom! I love this game. I've always wanted this game...." On and on he went. On and on and on. Well, I guess I know he'll love opening it up on Christmas morning. Win!


Here's our recipe:

I'm sure you have plenty of people to love on over this holiday season. Why not make them some of this delicious, and addictive, Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts? It'll make their day!

Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts
12 C popped popcorn
2 C dry roasted peanuts
1/2 C (one stick) butter
1 C sugar
1/2 C honey
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda

Preheat the oven to 225℉. Spread the popped popcorn and peanuts out onto 2 large baking sheets that have been lined with foil. Set aside.
In a deep sauce pan, combine your butter, sugar, honey, and salt over a medium-high heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. Make sure to incorporate the baking soda completely. Pour the caramel over the popcorn. Toss gently until all the popcorn and peanuts are coated.
Place baking sheets into the oven for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow popcorn to cool on the pan. Break apart the pieces and enjoy! Store caramel corn and peanuts in an air tight container.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chew on This | Cranberry Orange Scones

I had company over on Monday. The kind of company that you like to have linger because the conversation is meaningful and the laughing is contagious. The kind of visitor that will be missed when they walk out the door. 

We ate scones. They were delicious. 

You should carve out a couple of hours during this busy holiday season to have some special company over, too. It will brighten your day. 

You should serve them these scones. They're delicious.


Here's our recipe:

 Cranberry Orange Scones

1 1/3 C self rising flour
1/8 t salt
2 T candied ginger, cut into small pieces
1/4 C dried cranberries
2 t orange zest
4 T grated butter (very cold)
1 egg
orange juice, enough to make a 1/2 cup liquid when added to 1 egg
3 T sugar

Scone topping:
orange zest
Preheat oven to 425℉.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, candied ginger, cranberries, and orange zest. Grate, or cut, your very cold butter into your flour. Mix ingredients gently.

Crack 1 egg into a measuring cup, then add enough orange juice to measure a 1/2 cup of liquid. Stir to blend.

To the flour mixture, add a bit of the orange juice mixture, alternating with the 3 T of sugar. Mix gently after each addition. When the dough just begins to come away from the side of the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape into a round and cut into 8-10 pieces.  

Place scones on a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar and orange zest. Bake at 425℉ for 10-12 minutes. Serve with preserves and whipped cream. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chew on This | Hash Brown Crust Quiche

Our first holiday together as a married couple, The Husband and I went to a local tree farm and cut down a beautiful Frasier fir for our Christmas tree. It was so magnificent, portly, and just a bit too tall. As we hoisted that baby upright the top scraped the ceiling, leaving a lovely  large green mark. Trying to wipe, clean, and scour the mark away didn't help. In fact, it made it look worse. With no paint handy to cover up my cleaning mistake, I left it as is for the time being and focused on decorating our oversized tree.

The bedecked tree looked beautiful and the smell of pine was intoxicating. And as the afternoon turned to evening, the twinkling lights on the tree mesmerized us and we completely ignored could no longer see the green mark on the ceiling. That's the great thing about day-light savings - the sun sets so early I can no longer see the dust, fingerprints, or green marks that need cleaning around the house. 

After the holidays were over, decoration removal took place. Things were going smoothly. Precious baubles and ornaments were wrapped and carefully returned to boxes. Wreaths and garlands were taken down from doors and windows. All we had left to do was take down our tree. As happens, our lovely first tree had become a bit poky and ouchy - having been up and watered, though naturally drying out over the four weeks we had it up. So we were trying to take great care to not gouge ourselves, however, this issue became moot as we started to tip the tree sideways to carry it out. Possibly forgetting that our tree was so tall (?) we re-scraped the ceiling with another gorgeous mark. This one was a nice brown color. And, we regretfully did not remove the base from the tree and weeks of sappy, gross tree water spilled all over the carpet. As well, the poky pine needles decided to release themselves from the tree like a huge explosion, scattering everywhere. 

At that moment the words that came flying out of our mouths would have startled even the most surly of sailors. The Husband had reached his limit. He banged the front door open and in one movement he hurled that dastardly tree out. Branches snapped. More needles dropped. Many more sassy words were spoken. It took a professional carpet cleaning company to remove the sappy stain from the carpet. Re-painting the entire ceiling had to happen to cover the scrape marks properly. And it took many weeks to find and clean every jabby, foot attacking pine needle our precious first Christmas tree left behind.

This, my friends, is why we do not have a fresh tree for Christmas. The end.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Chew on This | Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash

With all of the holiday decorating and tree fluffing that has been going on around the house, we tend to gloss over the other tasks that have been done that are, surely, less glamorous, but still important.

Things like furnace filters being changed out. Outdoor furniture and pads getting stored away. Summer clothing being cleared out of closets and dressers. New gloves and fuzzy socks being purchased. Firewood stacked and ready for use. And laundering the warm blankets that will be added to bedding. Not the most fascinating of chores, but necessary.

Getting all this stuff done leaves more time for music, hot chocolate, gingerbread house building, cuddling, sledding....whatever! My sense of urgency to get this work done comes in second to my urgency to live in these holiday moments with my family with wide open eyes and heart. 

Getting it done and enjoying it all!


Here's our recipe:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chew on This | Sausage and Mushroom Bread Pudding

Christmas decorating was started over the weekend. With just a few tweaks here and there, I should be finished in no time. And, fingers crossed (and if the children are back in school sans sickness this week), I should also have Christmas cards and present buying completed by the end of the week. It's a lot to get done and making a list (and checking it twice) helps me accomplish so much. 

When making a list, my preferred choice is written. Because let's not underestimate the satisfaction of scratching a huge task off the list once it's completed. Oh, so nice. Yet, I have found that I can make 'reminder' lists on my cell phone. What I love about this technological step forward is that I can still mark tasks completed, a huge gratification factor for me. And, I can set reminder alarms for each task!! So, if complacency is setting in....BOOM! Some kind of crazy alarm will blare and remind me to get my backside moving.

Yes, I can certainly turn off the alarm and ignore the task. Been there, done that. But I can also set the reminder alarm to ring every day, at a specified time, until I, hopefully, get the work done. Can my written list do that?? No. No, it cannot. Is that why I still prefer written lists? Yes. Yes, it is.


Here's our recipe:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chew on This | Caramel Apple Sangria

Walking through the foyer last evening, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, lots of light coming from the neighboring yard. Looking fully out the window, I saw the beginnings of Christmas. White lights in pines, crawling up maples, and adorning roof tops. Peeking further down the road, more lights. Colorful lights. Crisp white lights. All beautiful. All cheerful. All festive.

I love how our neighbors embrace and celebrate the season. I also love that they waited until Thanksgiving was over before switching on the twinkle.

Our Thanksgiving was lovely. Picturesque. I hope your Thanksgiving was, too. We celebrated the good in our lives. The good in the world. There was much to be toasted. And we toasted in style with this delicious libation. Caramel Apple Sangria - good for any of your holiday celebrations. Also, good for a cozy evening in front of the fire. Enjoy!!


Here's our recipe:

Caramel Apple Sangria

375 ml white wine (half a bottle)
3/4 C caramel vodka
1/4 - 1/2 C Fireball whiskey
1/4 - 1/2 C spiced dark rum
4 C apple cider
1 apples, sliced into match sticks 

1 T granulated sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients. Stir and taste. Add a bit more of any of the above to enhance to flavor to your liking. Stir. Chill overnight. 

For serving - on a plate, stir together your sugar and cinnamon. Rim each glass with some honey. Roll each glass in the sugar/cinnamon mix. Pour in some Sangria and make sure to add in some apple slices. Drink and enjoy - we sure did!!