I’ve come up with some new favorites this season. The boys and Laura were around for all three, and I am happy to report there were many kitchen smiles over these!
From-Scratch Hot Chocolate
There’s something about hot chocolate made from scratch, with chocolate melted into milk, instead of a powder stirred in. It takes quite a bit more time, and probably has more calories, but it is quite delicious.
The key to a delicious result where milk is concerned is to take things slow and keep stirring. You don’t want the chocolate to scorch at the bottom of the pan. Heating up the milk before the chocolate should help things mix in more easily as well.
- Begin with 3 cups milk and 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Heat slowly over moderate to low heat, stirring periodically. Once you see bubbles start to form around the edges, it is plenty hot (or even a bit more hot than it needs to be).
- Add one cup of semisweet chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
- Stir constantly until all the chocolate is melted and well mixed. There will still be some small bits of chocolate within, but if it is all done slowly like this, the chocolate should be pretty well melted.
The basis for this recipe was here, and it called for 2 cups milk and 2 cups half-and-half. I trust my heavy whipping cream was fine! <grin> There are also some other variations on that site.
This nearly made my little cast iron kettle overflow, so next time I made a 3/4 recipe.
Hot Spiced Cider
We put up a Christmas tree yesterday, so I thought hot spiced cider would be perfect for the occasion. I went searching for recipes, and many of them called for cloves (which have to be sifted out later or put in a spice bag). I wasn’t going to have time to delay two boys from setting up a Christmas tree long enough for that, so I found this basic recipe to work well. However, I, as usual, made some modifications ;-)
- Warm 4 cups apple cider (not juice, as the recipe suggests) in a pot.
- Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Add 1/4 tsp nutmeg or allspice (I used allspice because I was mysteriously out of nutmeg, but will probably use nutmeg next time)
- Add 1 tbsp brown sugar
- Stir constantly until sufficiently dissolved. Pour immediately before drinking, as the contents will tend to separate.
Turkey or Chicken Noodle Soup
The annual “what to do with all that leftover turkey” quest strikes again. I like chicken noodle soup, so why not a turkey noodle soup done the same way?
Here’s what I used, roughly, in my large 6-quart cast iron cooking pot (aka “Dutch oven”):
- 9 cups chicken/turkey broth. Your own if you have it, or the canned variety works. Or make your own with boullion if you have it.
- 2 chopped yellow onions. (I added half a chopped red onion as well because I had it sitting around. Nobody complained, but 2.5 onions was a little much.)
- 4 tsp fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
- 4 tsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp beef bouillon
- 2 bay leaves
- 20 oz frozen mixed vegetables (I’d probably add more than that next year; this wasn’t quite enough)
- Plenty of wide egg noodles. The recipe I used called for 1 cup, which was laughably inadequate. I just dumped until it looked right, and then the package was almost empty so I dumped the rest in too.
- 4 cups cooked turkey or chicken, cubed (a kitchen scissors makes quick work of that)
- Two 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
Start with the broth, onion, basil, oregano, pepper, and bay leaf. Heat up the mixture and add the vegetables. Bring it to boiling, then add the uncooked noodles. Return to boiling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the turkey or chicken and diced tomatoes, and simmer until hot enough to serve.
The nice thing about soups is that they freeze well and make great winter leftovers. This recipe makes quite a lot of soup; you may wish to halve it.
This recipe was adapted from one in a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.