With cold weather all around the country right now, make an evening with hot chocolate even more special. Here are some tips for delicious and fun garnishes.
- Rather than tossing marshmallows into the hot chocolate, skewer some mini marshmallows onto a wooden skewer and set in the mug. I use about 5 on half a bamboo skewer.
- Use some whipped cream in a can, such as Reddi-Wip, and garnish the top. Use a vegetable peeler or grater to grate some chocolate over the top.
- Use the whipped cream as in number 2 above but instead of chocolate shavings as a garnish, drizzle some Hershey’s syrup over the whipped cream.
- Crush up leftover candy canes or peppermint candies and stir into the hot chocolate for a peppermint flavor.
Not long ago we had an impromptu cocktail hour with our neighbors, Carol and Lyn. Well, truthfully, it was probably longer than an hour! They were bringing some pot stickers and coconut shrimp and while looking through my “recipes to try” file (it’s a big file), I came across this dip recipe. It was the one recipe for which I had all the ingredients and didn’t have to go to the store. If you are watching your salt intake, substitute garlic powder for the garlic salt.
If you’re looking for a dish for a pot luck, game day food, aka football food, look no further.
Other than measuring, the only real work you have to do is chop the onion and shred the Swiss cheese. I don’t often buy prepackaged shredded cheese. I prefer to shred my own. That way I can shred just what I need and it costs less to buy a block of cheese than the pre-shredded type. Plus, the preshredded cheese has a non-caking agent added to prevent clumping. Do you ever notice how cheese you shred from a block melts better and more quickly? It takes a little time but just do it…you’ll be glad you did.
With more than 20 years experience in the wine and spirit industry, I know a little something about adult beverages. My motto: The better the ingredients the better the cocktail! That really applies to all aspects of cooking, whether it’s wine for a main dish, vanilla for baking or tequila for a margarita. That said, you don’t have to run out and buy an expensive tequila for this drink. But let’s talk about tequila a little bit. 100% Blue Agave tequila is going to be the best tasting and you can find some decent 100% Blue Agave tequilas on the market for a reasonable price. Blanco or white or silver tequila is clear and unaged. Reposado or “rested”, is aged a minimum of two months but less than one year. Anejo or “aged” (old) is aged a minimum of one year but less than three years. Personally I would use a reposado. Blanco tequila, even one that is 100% blue agave, can be harsh. Anejo tequilas are nice sipping tequilas. It will make a great margarita but will be the priciest choice.
Now let’s discuss the juice. Fresh is best but I realize Key limes are not available everywhere or even year round, for that matter. I am lucky to have a Key lime tree in my backyard so I freeze lots of juice for use throughout the year. One of the most popular Key lime juices on the market is Nellie and Joe’s. You can find it in most grocery stores. If Key limes are not available, Persian limes will work just fine. Since the Persian lime is much larger than the Key lime, you will probably need fewer to yield the same amount of juice.
So this is a recipe inspired by the Classic Margarita recipe I found in a cookbook called Margartias 101. I made it my own by tweaking some of the ingredients, namely using a non-alcoholic triple sec for the Cointreau. Just because a drink has more alcohol doesn’t mean it’s a better drink. It’s just more expensive and Cointreau is an expensive ingredient.
First you need to make a simple syrup. It’s called simple syrup because it’s so easy to make. There are a few ways to make it but I make it using equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate any leftover. I make this for my husband to sweeten his iced tea.
Now for the margarita recipe. Cheers.
I recently read about spatchcocked chicken in a magazine and knew I had to try it. Spatchcocking is more of a method than a recipe. To spatchcock a chicken all you do is place the whole chicken breast side down and, using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone. Start on the side of the backbone and cut up the side of the bone. Once that is done, turn the chicken around and cut up the side of the backbone to remove it. Once the backbone is out, clean out the inside of the chicken and pat dry. Place chicken, breast side up, and gently press on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Now you are ready to roast the bird.
Roast Spatchcocked Chicken & Vegetables
1 Spatchcocked chicken
5 Red potatoes, quartered
5 Carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place chicken in roasting pan. Surround with potatoes and carrots. Season all with salt, pepper and minced garlic. Drizzle chicken and vegetables with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Pour vegetable stock in bottom of pan. Roast chicken at 350 degrees F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4 – 1/4 chicken each.
If you want to try spatchcocking, it’s really easier than you think. If you’ve ever cut up a whole chicken, you can cut out the backbone. This chicken cooked evenly and a more quickly than roasting the whole bird. Feel free to add veggies you like. You could certainly use fennel, quartered onions or sweet potatoes. This dinner reminded me of fall. My family was pleasantly surprised with the meal and I know it will be a favorite for years to come. I also served a recipe I got from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, for zucchini pancakes. Look for that post soon!