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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hot Chocolate, Whipped Cream Day

The title of this post comes from one of the songs in the My First Piano method series by Nancy and Randall Faber.  The song is in 3/4 time and is designed to reinforce the concept of a "tie."  It also has an adorable picture of a girl and her dog drinking hot chocolate together in front of a winter scene.  Yes, these are the types of things I relate to... and believe it or not, I love it.

Unfortunately when my youngest student got to this song, she informed me very decidedly that she doesn't like hot chocolate... and even worse, she doesn't like peppermint.  To which I said:  What's NOT TO LIKE??  Anyway, we recently had a breakthrough on this topic after I put special Coldstone hot chocolate in my student's Christmas goody bags... apparently she likes THAT hot chocolate but none other.  My personal feeling is that whatever she's been drinking just hasn't been chocolatey enough.

Which brings me to the main point of this post:  if you're gonna make hot chocolate, don't just half-ass it.  Do it right.  Because then you end up with adorable 7-yr-olds who somehow don't like hot chocolate.  Below, please find the Katie Smith / Megan Wehrle / found off the back of the Hershey's baking chocolate box recipe for hot chocolate, tweaked of course to perfection by yours truly.

The secret to good hot chocolate is to put just as much cocoa in as you do sugar... maybe even err on the side of more cocoa than sugar.  So the ratio is 1:1, no matter what measurement you're using... maybe even 1:1.3, where the larger amount is always cocoa.

For instance, for 1 cup of hot chocolate, you would follow the rough guidelines below:
- 2 T sugar
- 2 T+ a little extra of cocoa... just eyeball it.  Call it a mounding heap.
- Add a dash of salt if you so desire... I never do.
Put this in a small saucepan and add just as much water as you did cocoa -- in this case, 2 T+ (or a little less than 2 and 1/2 T).

Add the water to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat til dissolved into a chocolatey syrup.  Add milk.  In the case of one serving, you would add roughly 1 - 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, maybe 2 if you need to stretch it... the hot chocolate in the pan should be dark in color once everything is disseminated.  If in doubt, use less milk.  Stir over medium heat until hot to the touch, milky swirls form on top, and steam is evident.  Do not boil.  Pour or ladle into a nearby mug.  Top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles or shavings... that's right, olympic style.

For peppermint hot chocolate, add 1/4 tsp of peppermint oil / extract / imitation flavoring to each mug, then top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

For Mexican hot chocolate, add roughly 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (sprinkle on top after poured in mug).  Stir and top with whipped cream.  And sprinkles if you're one of those people who needs them like a toddler needs their blankie... I am.

For naughty peppermint hot chocolate, add a shot of peppermint Schnapps to each mug, then top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

For 3 servings, I like to use 5 T sugar, 5 T+ of cocoa, 5 T+ water, and roughly 4 - 4 and 1/2 c milk.

From my mug to yours... cheers, friend :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

This recipe is so basic... so perfect for a January evening when it's 18 degrees outside.  If you know how to make chicken noodle soup from scratch already, you're golden... just use rice pasta instead of regular.  If you don't know how to make it, read on for a crash course in the art of homemade goodness.

For this recipe, you will need:
- 1 roasted chicken (I like to grab mine from the deli sections of grocery stores... Schnucks makes an herb-roasted chicken that's hot and ready to walk out the door -- perfect for a late evening of teaching when there's just not enough time to cook the thing yourself)
- half an onion, sliced and quartered
- roughly 1 c chopped celery
- roughly 2 c chopped carrots (I like to use baby carrots and just cut them in half)
- half a bag of frozen peas
- 3/4 - 1 lb brown rice pasta (or other gluten-free pasta)

Debone chicken... however much you'll think you'll need.  Last time I made this, I basically used all the dark meat -- legs, thighs, wings, and back -- and a little bit of breast meat.  Debone the rest and freeze.  You can also keep (freeze) the carcass to use for future chicken soups (just boil with remaining meat until bare; remove before adding pasta).  Put meat in large stewpot and fill mostly with water.  Add onion, celery, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil.  This is your stock.  After stock has boiled, add pasta and cook til tender in boiling stock (you can also save time by cooking the pasta separately and then adding later after carrots).  Add carrots and cook for 10 mins.  Add peas and cook til everything is well done, soup is boiled down, and your house smells amazing (roughly 45 mins - 1 hr).  Add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with hot chocolate and love :)