Archive for the 'Beverages' Category

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Today was a cold one here in Denver (it’s 17°F now), and I’ve been under the weather lately with a scratchy throat.  Feeling chilly and a little bit sorry for myself, I decided I deserved a treat: Nutella Hot Chocolate, or the most delicious, bare-minimum effort dessert ever.  I first had it at my friend Christopher’s (on the recommendation of his cousin, Nicole), but we thought it could have been more chocolatey.  I’ve played with the proportions, and I think I have it just right.

Nutella Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%; use whole for a richer drink)
3 tablespoons Nutella

Method:
Place milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.  Whisk in Nutella until completely incorporated.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

That’s it!  It’s so easy, but so delicious.  With these proportions, you get a perfect amount of chocolately, nutty Nutella flavor.  This would be an ideal dessert for Valentine’s Day if you’re looking for something warm and comforting but super easy (especially served with heart marshmallows, which I cut from large store-bought marshmallows using a mini heart cookie cutter).

TIPS:  The first time I made this at home, I used Nutella that had been in the pantry for a while.  Fresh Nutella dissolves much better than Nutella that’s past its prime.

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Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk (aka The Most Fun Way to Make Chocolate Milk Ever)

Has anyone around here been reading this blog long enough to remember the request line?  It fizzled out around the time we made our move from Dallas back to Denver, but a friend from college singlehandedly (and unknowingly) revived it by sending me a recipe a few weeks ago.  Since he specifically said I should try it and blog about it, I’m going to happily interpret that as a request.  And it’s a good one! The recipe was simple and quick (minus the milk chilling time, but that’s hands off) and so much fun.  Thanks, Mike, for reminding me that I love chocolate milk (and should enjoy it more often!).

So, the premise behind the recipe is to make what basically amounts to chocolate ice cubes, and to serve them with milk that has been “enhanced” with a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Kids would love this treat (without the instant coffee, I’m sure) and I think this makes a fun dessert for adults as well.  Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Ice

Ingredients:
200 ml milk
50 ml water
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee (optional) (I used Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso)
70 g dark chocolate (66% cacao) (I ignored the cacao recommendation and used Cadbury Royal Dark because I like it and it was on sale)

Method:
Finely chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.

Pour milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, cocoa, and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Pour over the chocolate, set aside for 5 minutes, then mix gently with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.  Cool and pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Vanilla Milk

Ingredients:
600 ml milk
60 g sugar
1 vanilla pod

Method:
Pour milk into a large saucepan.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Slit the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Cool, then refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight.

To serve, place chocolate ice cubes in glasses (3 – 4 cubes per glass, depending on the size) and pour the cold vanilla milk over the cubes.

Note:  I used the measurements indicated in the recipe because my liquid measuring cups have cup and milliliter markings.  I also have a kitchen scale, so I was able to just weigh my sugar.  Fifty milliliters of water is a little under 1/4 cup; 200 milliliters of milk is a little over 3/4 cup; 600 milliliters of milk is about 2 1/2 cups.  Seventy grams of dark chocolate was all but five squares of a Cadbury Royal Dark bar.  Sixty grams of sugar should be slightly over 1/4 cup.  Thankfully, this isn’t baking, so the recipe should be forgiving of slight variations.

Chocolate Ice Cubes

Chocolate Milk

Holy cow, was this ever delicious!  It’s rare for me to just sit down with a glass of milk (especially chocolate milk), and I feel like I’ve been missing out.  A cold glass of milk is actually pretty refreshing, and I especially loved the depth of flavor the espresso powder brought to the chocolate and the way the milk got more and more chocolatey as the cubes melted.  Mmmmmm.  The flavor possibilities are pretty endless too…  I can totally imagine adding some chile powder, powdered ginger, or cinnamon to the mix.

What else do I love about this recipe besides the fact that it’s delicious?  It’s easily made ahead.  The chocolate cubes can just sit in the freezer (though I would recommend storing them in a freezer bag to minimize freezer burn) and I’m sure the milk will keep just fine in the refrigerator for several days.  Perfect for treats on demand!

Again, many thanks to my friend Mike for reviving the request line.  If you have a recipe you’d like me to try, post a comment or send me a message at sweetandsaucy.wordpress.com@gmail.com.

TIPS:  I ended up getting 27 chocolate ice cubes out of the recipe with about 1 tablespoon of liquid each.  Next time, I would probably double the milk recipe to make more servings since four chocolate cubes per glass was just about perfect.

Recipe link: Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk

Watermelon Lemonade

I love watermelon, and I love serving it as part of a summer menu.  (Does it get any easier?  Slice, cover, refrigerate, uncover, serve.)  I usually need more than a personal-size watermelon to feed my guests, but Dr. O and I seem to have a heck of a time finishing the leftovers from a full-size watermelon on our own. Thankfully, I found a delicious solution: Watermelon Lemonade.  It’s pretty simple to make and it keeps in the refrigerator for three days.  Here’s the recipe:

Watermelon Lemonade
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 lemons, quartered
1 cup fresh mint leaves (mine were loosely packed)
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 medium seedless watermelon (about 9 pounds), rind removed, flesh cut into chunks
1 cup vodka (optional)

Method:
Squeeze lemons into a large pitcher; add squeezed lemon quarters.  Add mint and sugar; mash with a wooden spoon until mint is bruised and sugar is dissolved.

In a blender, purée watermelon in batches until smooth; pour through a fine-mesh sieve into pitcher (you should have about 8 cups of juice).  Stir to combine. Refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.  Add vodka, if using; serve over ice.

Source: Everyday Food, July 2008

Watermelon Lemonade

Refreshing and deeeeelicious.  Watermelon is absolutely the dominant flavor here. The drink is sweet from the watermelon and the brown sugar, and while you can taste the lemon and the mint, neither are overwhelming.  We tried it with and without vodka and enjoyed it both ways.

My only complaints are: (1) they say it takes 5 minutes to make this (maybe if your watermelon is already cut and you can get it puréed in just two batches), and (2) the lemonade does separate over time in the pitcher (easy enough to solve with a quick stir before serving).  It’s tasty and perfect for summer, though!

Recipe link: Watermelon Lemonade

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

Dr. O and I have been in an undeniable breakfast rut.  I love egg sandwiches, but we’ve been eating them for breakfast almost every morning (weekends included) for months and months and months now.  I broke the monotony a bit last week because I needed to use strawberries left over from my party, but my go-to strawberry recipe (oatmeal with macerated strawberries) takes almost 15 minutes. In my quest to find a quick breakfast that would make use of the leftover fruit, I came up with a simple smoothie recipe.  Now that the party berries are gone, I’ve bought more so I can keep making this healthy, filling breakfast.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie
Makes about 20 ounces

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulls removed
1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar  (or more to taste)
6 ice cubes (exclude if using frozen fruit)

Method:
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Process on the highest setting until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

I love this smoothie!  The consistency is just right: thin enough to be drinkable, but thick enough to feel like a satisfying meal.  With just a hint of added sweetener, the flavor of the berries really shines through.  Plus, it’s infinitely adaptable since you can substitute any type of fruit for the strawberries.  I made one yesterday using a banana and some frozen mixed berries I had in the freezer.

The recipe does make enough for two people to share, but I’ll admit that I can put down a whole recipe by myself.  With only 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points for the whole smoothie, I figure it’s a great source protein, calcium, and vitamin C and a healthy way to start the day.

TIPS:  If you’re really in a hurry in the mornings, put all of the ingredients (except the ice cubes) in the blender jar the night before, put the lid on, and stash it in the refrigerator.  All you’ll have to do the next morning is blend for two minutes and go.

Dinner Party Menus: Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on food.  Between searching recipes, reading food magazines, planning menus, shopping, cooking, and cleaning it all up, food is certainly a central element in my life.  (My husband and I keep joking about all the things I could accomplish if I gave up cooking for just one week…  Stay tuned to see if that ever actually happens!)

It occurred to me today that I might be able to save time for some of you by posting the menus I’ve put together for dinner parties at my house.  I try to plan things that go together nicely and that will allow me to do as much work as possible before my guests arrive.  (We usually have cocktails and apps around my kitchen island, so the last thing I want my guests to see is me frantically trying to put a meal on the table.)  Saving time and lessening stress is always a good thing, right?

Last night, Dr. O and I hosted a typical fall dinner party with one exception: we had a vegetarian guest.  Now, vegetarians certainly aren’t unusual and I’ve worked with more challenging diets, but I came to realize that I didn’t have many recipes in my entertaining arsenal that didn’t include meat.  I first experimented with Hearty Root Vegetable and Mushroom Stew from my copy of The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2010.  While it certainly wasn’t bad, it wasn’t dinner party food; my friend Christopher suggested that I was expecting a miracle out of a vegetable stew.  After some discussion, we came up with the menu below for six guests.

Appetizers:
Spinach dip and lemon artichoke dip from Whole Foods (I’ll take help where I can get it!)
Crackers
Cucumber slices (as a dipping alternative)
Mixed olives
Roasted, salted almonds (from Whole Foods bulk section – fantastic!)

Meal:
Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots
Simple Roasted Tomatoes (Just toss any quantity of cherry tomatoes in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast for 15 to 20 minutes towards the end of the macaroni and cheese baking time.)

Dessert:
Pear and Berry Crisp

Here’s the preparation schedule I followed for a 7 p.m. dinner party.  (Yes, I am one of those people.  Having a schedule totally reduces stress and the likelihood that I’ll forget something, though.)

Anytime Friday:
Chill wine
Wash and iron napkins
Make and store crisp topping

Saturday morning or afternoon (work takes approximately 1 hour):
Slice and store shallots for green beans (refrigerator)
Rinse, trim, and store green beans (refrigerator)
Wash and dry cherry tomatoes, place them in roasting pan, and store (counter)
Wash, slice, and store cucumbers (refrigerator)
Thaw berries for crisp
Wash and slice pears for crisp
Assemble fruit portion of crisp and store (refrigerator)
Set table

5:45 p.m.: Make macaroni and cheese (hold at room temperature until baking time)

6:30 p.m.:
Put out appetizers
Put pot of water for green beans on stove (no heat yet)
Put pot for cooking shallots on stove with shallot butter inside (no heat yet)
Preheat oven for macaroni and cheese

7:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!

7:15 p.m.:
Put macaroni and cheese in oven
Start boiling bean water

7:30 p.m.:
Put tomatoes in oven (beneath macaroni)
Start cooking shallots

7:45 p.m.:
Remove macaroni from oven
Add green beans to boiling water

7:50 p.m.:
Remove tomatoes from oven
Drain green beans and toss with butter, salt, and pepper
Combine green beans with caramelized shallots
Change oven temperature to 400°F for crisp
Serve dinner

8:30 p.m.: Put crisp in oven

9:15 p.m.: Remove crisp from oven

9:35 p.m.: Serve warm crisp with vanilla ice cream

It seems like a lot of steps, but since I did things like put the bean water and shallot butter on the stove ahead of time, I’d say the actual amount of hands-on work that needs to be done while guests are standing around takes fewer than 10 minutes. Consequently, I can actually interact with and enjoy my guests (the point) instead of working myself into a frenzy (so not the point!).

The food turned out really well.  I’ve made Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (here’s a link to my post) and Pear and Berry Crisp (my post) before; both are absolutely to die for.  The tomatoes and the green beans were perfect complements to the macaroni.  I would normally serve a buttery chardonnay (like La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay) with this dinner, but my friend brought a red (2005 La Baronne Alaric) with the dish in mind; it paired beautifully.

So that’s my dinner party…  What do you think?  Do you consider this type of post helpful, or not so much?  I’d love to hear from you!

Hibiscus-Honey Iced Tea

I’m always on the lookout for great beverages I can make by the pitcher for parties. Margaritas (or limeade) and sangria have worked well for me in the past. I’ve recently started making mojitos by the pitcher as well since I figured out that making them individually for guests guarantees my post as a full-time bartender for the evening. 🙂 The June 2008 issue of Everyday Food had a great spread on some pitcher-friendly drinks that would keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (yay for make-ahead recipes!), so I decided to give Hibiscus-Honey Iced Tea a try.

I wasn’t sure how heatproof my two glass pitchers were, so I actually made the tea in a saucepan and then poured it into a pitcher for storage. In a medium saucepan, I combined 6 hibiscus tea bags, 1/2 cup of honey, and 5 cups of boiling water (boiled in my tea kettle). I let the tea steep for 10 minutes and then discarded the tea bags. I added 1 cup of fresh lime juice, 1 cup of light rum, and 3 cups of cold water. I stirred everything together, transferred it to a pitcher, and refrigerated it until it was cold (1 hour). I served the tea over ice garnished with lime slices.

Hibiscus-Honey Iced Tea

This tea is really refreshing and delicious. One user on the Everyday Food Web site complained that it was too lime-y, but I loved it. The recipe makes just over 2 quarts of tea, so it’s perfect for a small party. Since it keeps in the refrigerator for a week, though, I’m sure Dr. O and I will have no trouble finishing it off.

The rum is barely detectable, so watch out – this one might sneak up on you. 🙂 Leave it out if you’d rather keep this one family friendly.

TIPS: I actually couldn’t find *just* hibiscus tea, so I used hibiscus-raspberry tea instead. Based on the recipe photos, I think you’d still get that beautiful deep pink color with regular hibiscus tea.

Also, I did end up with a bit of “tea sediment” between the lime pulp and the tea bags. (I probably shouldn’t have squeezed the tea bags before removing them from the saucepan.) Next time, I’ll run this through a sieve before storing it.

Recipe link: Hibiscus-Honey Iced Tea

Pineapple-Banana Smoothie

Here’s a delicious way to kick off your weekend (or any day!). I made the Pineapple-Banana Smoothie recipe from the January/February 2006 issue of Everyday Food as a quick breakfast for Dr. O earlier this week, but it would make a great snack or brunch accompaniment as well.

The recipe only serves 2 people, so just multiply the ingredients to fit your needs. In a blender, I combined 1 can (8 ounces) of crushed pineapple in juice, 1 banana, 6 ounces of plain nonfat yogurt, and 1/2 cup of ice cubes. I pureed the mixture and then served it with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Talk about simple and quick!

Pineapple-Banana Smoothie

This smoothie is really delicious; it’s actually the only Everyday Food smoothie recipe I’ve tried so far where I haven’t had to add extra honey or sugar for sweetness. I think the pineapple makes it perfect.

TIPS: Low-fat or regular yogurt will work just fine, if that’s what you have on hand. I prefer the consistency and flavor of nonfat yogurt in this particular recipe, though. It might be fun to experiment with vanilla or fruit-flavored yogurt here as well.

Recipe link: Pineapple-Banana Smoothie




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