Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Fa-la-la-la-la! It’s Halloween

No matter what you do or feel about Halloween, here’s a little fun for you today.

Our parents let us trick-or-treat. As I remember it best, I usually wore a mask which made me perspire. I couldn’t see with peripheral vision either. (not safe!). It usually rained and my oldest sister resented having to take her young siblings out and trudge us all over town.

But I believe Halloween can be a great time to engage with your community. Be kind and generous to the kids who come to your door. Keep smiling and be a blessing to someone today.

“Fa-La-La, It’s Halloween”

Deck the porch with ghouls and mummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
‘Tis the season for our tummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
As we sing our pumpkin carols
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

See the children in their costumes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Trick or treat once more re-zoo-ooms
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Follow us in merry measure
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la!
As we gather gobs of treasure
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Teachers hope it all soon passes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
They’ll see hyper kids in classes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Will we ever learn our lesson?
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-NOPE!
Candy wins out, Ima guessin’

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-lah…lah…laaah!

 

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN

“The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man” a Review

“The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man” by Michael Chabon; Balzer and Bray; copyright 2011; 40 pp.

It doesn’t hurt that “Astonishing Secret” is written by one of my favorite authors. It doesn’t hurt that it’s about a superhero. I love superheroes. It doesn’t hurt that it’s funny. I love to laugh. It doesn’t hurt that it’s fun to look at the pictures.

 

We’re supposed to guess Awesome Man’s secret identity and along the way, if you’re paying attention, you’ll figure it out. He tells us about his awesome powers, but confesses he smashes into things—and sometimes on purpose. Because “When you are a superhero like me, sometimes you have to smash into things.”

 

He has a Fortress of Awesome, Moskowitz the Awesome Dog, and an arch nemesis–the Flying Eyeball. If he gets into trouble and his powers get away from him, he retreats and gets all ‘positronic’ again.

Chabon has captured the essence of comics with sound effects in humongous letters: “Skreech” “Sklurp” “Ska-runch.” Hey, it also doesn’t hurt that the author has had a love relationship with comic books his whole life (almost). Jake Parker’s illustrations couldn’t be cleverer. He works wonders with bold colors, also reminiscent of comic books.

Awesome Man puts me in mind of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and his alter-ego Stupendous Man. Except I don’t think Calvin, erm, Stupendous Man can hug mutant Jell-O.

The clues are there, but even if you figure out Awesome Man’s secret identity early in the story, I bet you’ll want to read it again, even if your child doesn’t ask you to.

But I bet he will.

Days With Frog and Toad: A Review

What a cool relationship Frog and Toad have. They remind me of an amphibious odd couple. Their personalities are different as well as their skins. Frog seems to be always upbeat and Toad seems to have a tentative attitude toward things. And then there’s the Toad-is-brown and Frog-is-green thing going on.

Kids learning to read will have fun with “Days With Frog and Toad” because Frog and Toad help each other, play together, relax together, and obviously care about one another.

Each of the five stories—“Tomorrow,” “The Kite,” “Shivers,” “The Hat,” and “Alone” are comical and sweet. Each contains a lesson that parents can discuss with their child. The stories are a fun way to learn about helping, being persistent, being responsible, and appreciating people.

The frog and toad stories remind me also of “The Wind in the Willows” because of the characters’ particular species. Arthur Lobel has done a fine job with the I Can Read Book, with engaging stories and simple illustrations to go with the simple sentence structure for beginning readers. The I Can Read series is explained as “a perfect bridge to chapter books” with “high-interest stories for developing readers.”

 

“Avengers: Endgame” A Review

“Avengers: Endgame” 2019; Marvel Studios; Directors Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson

I was excited, looking forward to sitting in one of our local theaters for three hours to watch “Avengers: Endgame.”

I woke up yesterday feeling under the weather, and even though my symptoms calmed down an hour or so before show time, I hoped I’d be able to sit three hours watching the endgame unfold and experiencing again the Avengers team’s responses to crisis.

I made it. I couldn’t eat popcorn (I know, how did I resist theater popcorn?) nor did I purchase a drink from the concession stand. My reward for going the length of the entire movie without leaving my seat was a free trip to the ladies room afterward.

One piece of advice. In my opinion, having watched all the films and most of the associated Marvel television series, it would be to your advantage to watch “Avenger: Infinity War” before seeing this one. It will help keep in mind all the action that preceded the “endgame” Doctor Strange referred to at the end of “Infinity War” and some of the motivations of the characters.

This probably is, in fact, not a review at all. I will have to let you know how I liked the movie when I’m done weeping. Not really. But there are some sad parts in this story along with all the anticipated action and the typical Marvel humor.

Fa-la-la-la! It’s Halloween

No matter what you do or feel about Halloween, here’s a little fun for you today.

I got to trick-or-treat as a kid. As I remember it best, I usually wore a mask which made me perspire and in which I couldn’t see (not safe!). It usually rained and my oldest sister resented having to take her young siblings out in the small town we lived in.

But I believe Halloween can be a great time to engage with your community. Be kind and generous to the kids who come to your door. Keep smiling and be a blessing to someone today.

“Fa-La-La, It’s Halloween”

Deck the porch with ghouls and mummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
‘Tis the season for our tummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
As we sing our pumpkin carols
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

See the children in their costumes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Trick or treat once more re-zoo-ooms
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Follow us in merry measure
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la!
As we gather gobs of treasure
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Teachers hope it all soon passes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
They’ll see hyper kids in classes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Will we ever learn our lesson?
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-NOPE!
Candy wins out, Imma guessin’
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-lah…lah…laaah!

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Foodie’s Crazy Kitchen

Raise your hand if you subscribe to more than five Foodie blogs. Thank you; I see I’m in good company.

I’m afraid I inject some of personality every time I write a Foodie post. That’s probably a good thing. Last week I gave a friend a heads-up, letting her know today’s subject would again be kitchen tips.

Well, if you consider the following “kitchen tips,” your personality is a lot like mine.

Consider this list of words I associate with creating in the kitchen:

  • Hodge-podge
  • Daring
  • Variety
  • Fun
  • Whisking (I enjoy whisking)
  • Gadgets
  • Spills
  • Putter

Something that springs to mind in addition to all that is “Crazy.” Not the kind that people associate with a mental illness. (And that’s not a good use of the word anyway). This is ‘crazy’ meaning sort of wacky or zany. Like, if someone eavesdropped as you putter in the kitchen, they might be surprised. They might furrow their brow. They might gasp. Let’s hope they see the fun you’re having and giggle.

Crazy Foodies, as far as I’ve seen, get lost in the process. They love going rogue by experimenting. Crazy Foodies sing, hum, or dance while they maneuver in the kitchen because music is often part of the process.

Where are the kitchen tips I promised? All right, here we go. And remember these tips are about being a little crazy in the kitchen, whether they look like it or not.

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge
  2. Think outside the box (Wait. I got rid of the box)
  3. If you have kids, get them involved
  4. Use your gadgets to their ultimate potential
  5. Don’t keep too many gadgets around
  6. Clear a large space for your work area
  7. Use recipes for tried-and-true stuff
  8. Try recipes—your own or someone else’s—that challenge you
  9. Don’t try to be a master chef (Relax!)

Because I enjoy experimenting and altering recipes, I can see how having a well-stocked pantry helps me to experiment and be creative. An added bonus is that I can be more methodical.

But does being methodical take away from the fun and spontaneity?

Naah. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan, even if you consider yourself a Crazy Foodie. When you’re somewhat methodical, you give yourself elbow room to be more creative.

Last night, I made cole slaw from what was left of the huge head of cabbage a friend gave me. She’s gluten intolerant and craved some sort of popular Italian-style meal so I made Cabbage Lasagna. My recipe for homemade cole slaw dressing was perfected by thinking out of that box which doesn’t exist in my kitchen.**

In my neck of the woods, we have a couple of Autumn holidays coming up. Foodies get a little crazy making dishes with a new twist. Naturally, I encourage that. In fact, that’s why I follow more than five Foodie blogs. I steal ideas from those writer/kitchen experts.

Let’s get crazy if we haven’t already tried it. If you already practice craziness, invite a friend to come and enjoy the process. Add some peanut butter to the banana bread.  Make some overnight oats that taste like an Almond Joy.

Just do it.

What words do you associate with creating in the kitchen? Would love to hear you chime in. So I can steal your ideas. Thanks in advance for letting me be a Kitchen Burglar.

Eat hardy!

**Truthfully, there is a box. For instance, I don’t do things like put lobster in chocolate fudge.

 

 

Foodie Cookie Winner

What a fun day we had recently in my rental community. They called it Tenant Appreciation Day. I was able to meet a few more of my neighbors, which is always fun. The company sponsored a chili cook-off and a couple bake-offs, one of which yours truly was a winner.

The winning entry, my pumpkin bars, were selected in the cookie category because our office manager decided they’re more of a cookie than a cake. That was okay with me—I won! The recipe is below. I failed to take a photo of these moist, not-too-sweet ‘cookies’ and it was too late by the time we thought of it. They disappeared quickly.

As you know, one of my favorite things to do is putter in the kitchen. I even enjoy clean-up time. Nothing like a tidy space to work. So when they said we’d be competing for the best stuff, how could I resist?

Robert won for his splendid homemade barbecue sauce and grilled chicken. Oh, you guys, it was mouth-watering tender. The sauce had just enough tart and sweet to please any palate. Duane took the prize for his pound cake and Amanda won in the chili category.

So there we were, mingling, eating and listening to some rocking music. The kids were making crafts and everyone got a goodie bag. The adults played that old favorite, “Guess How Many Are in the container.” A large Ball storage jar and a small one filled to the brim with hard candy and Red Hots. They gave extra incentive for the large container by taping a $2 bill to the side.

Hey, I’ll compete for money. Good thing I did. I came closest to the amount without going over with a guess of 639. The jar contained six hundred and something. Considering I have a rotten sense of spatial relationships, that’s pretty good. I never win anything so “Wow.” Best Cookie and Best Guesser. I shared the contents of the jar. I mean, what am I going to do with almost 700 pieces of candy? Or is that a dumb question?

 

Pumpkin Bars

  •  2 c. flour
  •  2 t. baking powder
  •  2 t. cinnamon
  •  1 t. baking soda
  •  4 eggs
  •  ¾ c. oil
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 1 16 oz. can pumpkin

Blend eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to the large bowl ingredients. Bake in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let bars cool before spreading them with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Blend all ingredients together and frost the cake.

A fairly simple recipe. As always, you can prepare this with a little less sugar as I do. I like to use a glass dish for these. It seems to bake nicely. And if you have problems with gluten, other flours usually work as well. I’ve mixed almond flour with wheat flour and I enjoy the flavor just as much.

Eat Hardy!

Foodie’s Ready For Strawberries

My birthday happens in early June—just celebrated and it was fun. Every time I celebrate, I remember that it’s time for strawberries to be harvested soon.

You can begin looking for local growers who have them for sale at the farmers’ markets. If there’s a store which carries locally-grown produce, give them your business first. Do you have your own strawberry plot and can’t wait to get out there and fill a few quart containers?

Today, let’s look at a couple simple recipes, which you may not have tried, for using this bright red fruit .

Kelly at her blog, The Pretty Bee, creates allergy friendly recipes. Substitutions can always be made, she says, but if you decide to switch up ingredients, nutrition information changes. Kelly provides a chart for nutrition info with her recipes.

Here’s her recipe for Whipped Strawberry Butter I’d be spreading that on my favorite toast, a biscuit or an English muffin. Yummy.

Another foodie blog, Well Plated by Erin, features strawberry dishes this time of year as well. For a sweet dessert, try these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars. Erin also supplies nutrition info for those of us who are watching that sort of thing.

True story: When my mom was pregnant for me, she craved strawberries. When she told the story, she never said whether she was able to satisfy the craving every time. However, I think she just might have, and that indulgence may have affected me.

Until I reached the age of six, I broke out in hives whenever I ate strawberries. Imagine! The first six years of my life with no beautiful, sweet, luscious goodness of a strawberry could enter my body. Then, for some reason, I no longer suffered from ingesting them. Praise God! Perhaps not so ironically, they are by far my favorite fruit. I confess that I could probably binge on strawberries.

Have fun coming up with ideas where you can fill your Foodie Kitchen with fresh strawberry treats.

Try Belgian Waffles. Strawberry Sorbet. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie or Cobbler (yes, the rhubarb’s ready too). Dip them in chocolate. Or just slice some up and throw ’em on top of your ice cream. You get the idea, Foodie Friend.

Eat Hardy and Be a Blessing to Someone Today.

Foodie Over the Rainbow

Thank goodness for the internet. I learned a new kitchen technique this week by searching. Now, maybe you all know how to tint coconut, and I probably would have figured something out, but now I know for sure. It’s so easy.

I needed to know this technique to make what I’m calling “Over the Rainbow Cake.” I saw a picture of it on the internet (thank you, anonymous person!) and decided I’d have to make one. There wasn’t a recipe or instructions, but I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. It’s just an angel food cake cut in half, frosted and decorated with tinted coconut and marshmallows.

You’ll notice there’s no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Disappointing, isn’t it? The leprechaun taunted and teased me and said he wasn’t going to share that information. So I’m settling for the change in my piggy bank.

The cake was a gift for the staff at my church for St. Patrick’s Day. I hope they enjoyed it. For you, my readers, here are some ways to celebrate whether or not you’re Irish.

  • Write a limerick
  • Go searching for a four-leafed clover
  • Drink some ale (?)
  • Sing “That’s an Irish Lullaby” over and over
  • Eat some corned beef and cabbage
  • Wear green so you don’t get pinched
  • Kiss someone who is Irish

Anyway, have a great day and “May the road rise up to meet you.”