Hot Cocoa Mix

December 21, 2010

We are now at the point in the holidays where people are scrambling for last minute stocking stuffers. Luckily, I’ve got one that is tasty, requires 3 ingredients, and takes about 5 minutes to throw together.

Preferably, you will use chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips contain compounds that help them hold their shape in heat. Good quality chocolate chips, like Ghiradelli, for instance, contain less of these compounds, and will melt easier. But if all you’ve got is chocolate chips, and you stir your prepared cocoa well, it will be just fine.

A note: I apologize for the crappiness of my pictures over the last month. My digital camera has broken so I can’t see the image as it will appear after the picture has taken. Not on the screen, not through the eye hole. I have basically been taking tons of pictures blindly and some will turn out. I am in the process of trying to repair it. Please bear with me.

HOT COCOA MIX (adapted in the most minor of ways from Real Simple)

Yields 2 cups hot cocoa mix

If you’d like to make peppermint hot cocoa mix, just add 1/4 cup crushed peppermint

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup refined sugar

4 oz good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips

Recipe

  1. In a bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, and chocolate. Store in an airtight container.
  2. Keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 months.
  3. Include these instructions with your gift: “In a small saucepan, whisk ¼ cup cocoa mix with ¾ cup milk. Bring to a bare simmer. Serves 1.”
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Will was pretty skeptical when I told him I was making Zucchini Breakfast Casserole. Understandably so, as it sounds awfully cafeteria for our tastes. Usually, Will is right. But this time, he was wrong. Very, very wrong.

The bread cubes get drunk with egg and cheese and resemble a savory  french-toast. It is laden with basil and parmesan. And though this tastes rich, it won’t weigh you down, and gives you the sense of being healthy with its plum tomatoes and loads of zucchini. I am going to beg my friend Cheryl to permenantly offload her parent’s zucchini on me so I can keep making this.

No more zucchini, for now, anyway. This week’s CSA has gave us a bounty of yellow cherry tomatoes (!), swiss chard, carrots, kolrabi, beets, and squash. I may have had a giant bowl of sauteed beet greens for breakfast (jealous?), but I promise to have more exciting plans for the rest of the produce. Stay tuned!

ZUCCHINI BREAKFAST CASSEROLE (from SimplyRecipes)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or other hot chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from 2-3 fresh zucchinis)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (from 4-5 fresh tomatoes),
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil (from about 20 leaves)*
  • 4 cups cubed day-old bread (from about 4 slices)
  • Olive oil

*Chiffonade basil by stacking a few leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, slice thin, starting at one end of the cigar and working your way down.

Recipe

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Mix in the grated Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, salt and pepper.

2 Prepare the vegetables and bread. Once you chop the tomatoes, squeeze excess moisture out of them by pressing them in a sieve, or wrapping in paper towels and squeezing. Add the tomatoes, basil, and zucchini to the egg mixture. Moisten the bread cubes with a little water then squeeze out any excess moisture using paper towels. Mix the bread cubes into the egg mixture.

3 Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish generously with olive oil. Pour the egg vegetable mixture into the baking pan and even it out in the pan. Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. The casserole should puff up and brown lightly. If it hasn’t after 30 minutes at 350, increase the heat to 425° and cook for 5-10 minutes further. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

July 28, 2010

On Monday, three of my college friends popped in to town for a quick visit, and it was wonderful. I weaned myself off coffee a few months ago, and the visit gave me the chance to try this simple recipe from The Bitten Word out on my coffee-loving friends. I used to make iced coffee by simply placing hot coffee in the fridge, but I recently learned that cold-brewing coffee both a) takes the bitterness out of the coffee and b) is even less work than chilling the hot stuff. I tried a cup (and got very jittery after) and would have to agree that this trumps my previous method. You should definitely try this out if you like iced coffee.

I tried a few attempts at taking interesting pictures of coffee and didn’t succeed in doing anything mind-blowing. But the morning after we tasted this Iced Coffee, we went for a beautiful 8 mile hike. And who am I to compete with nature? I love cooking and all, but, seriously, will you look at this place?

My friends, being creative and self-reliant, managed to create the best possible mid-hike meal I have ever tasted, which we ate while looking at this gorgeous lake. Hard salami and aged cheese on a crusty baguette. Pumpkin seeds. Roasted plantain chips. Fresh plums. Here we are, refreshed after our lunch, scoping out the view.

We hiked high up in elevation and stood in awe of the giant, craggy mountains surrounding us, and the enormous clouds overhead. We saw waterfalls and streams and some beautiful wildflowers. We even stumbled upon a jackrabbit. Now I don’t mean to get all introspective on you or anything, but I’ve had a difficult time this week not letting The Man (meaning my health insurance company, the traffic department, and all the details involved in moving to a new place this week) get me down. But while on our hike, Meg commented, “You know, it’s really good to feel insignificant sometimes.” This is me feeling insignificant.And sometimes, when you feel insignificant, your problems do too. Here are our insignificant problems.

COLD-BREWED ICED COFFEE (from The Bitten Word who took it from the NY Times)

Ingredients

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional).

Recipe

1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Yield: Two drinks.

NOTE: To make hot coffee, dilute concentrate one-to-one with water and heat in the microwave.