Foodie Sips Hot Chocolate

In my part of the world, it’s autumn. This time of the year and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine 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.

This time of year, we’re often found around campfires in our own back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

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. I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try some homemade cocoa and give it 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 always adds zip.

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.

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.

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 fresh 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 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 chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

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Midwestern Autumn-Lovin’ Foodie

I live in one of the Midwestern states so I get to experience four distinct seasons. Autumn is my favorite.

The weather in autumn agrees with my body. Autumn also stirs my soul. I have fond memories of school starting, playing in fallen leaves in the front yard of my childhood home, and cookouts over backyard fires. (Say, “marshmallows,” “hot dogs,” “S’mores.”)

Autumn brings a harvest of some delightful produce as well, and pumpkins are ready about now. Or getting there. Those delightful places where they sell apples, cider, donuts, and pumpkins  open up during September in my home state. People flock there.

Hewlett-PackardPumpkins will grace porches soon–just as they’re picked or carved with a face. They provide a pantry item when we pack them up for the freezer. And in my opinion, eating pumpkin pies just makes more sense during autumn.

This is one of my favorite recipes using pumpkin. The cream cheese frosting makes it really special, but even without it, the bars are exceptionally moist. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
¾ c. oil
1 ½ c. sugar
1 16 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and blend.
Spread mixture into a 13” x 9” pan and bake for 25 minutes.
While pumpkin bars are baking, make the frosting.

Frosting
1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the cheese and butter. Mix in the vanilla. Add the confectioner’s sugar and blend well. When bars are cooled, spread frosting on top.

If you want to use your own fresh or frozen pumpkin from your pantry, you probably can. I suggest using a food processor or blender to “whip” it into shape. Be sure all the stringy fibers are removed for the best texture.

Foodie-Schmoodie

I live in one of the Midwestern states so I get to experience four distinct seasons. Autumn is my favorite.

The weather in autumn agrees with my body. Autumn also stirs my soul. I have fond memories of school starting, playing in fallen leaves in the front yard of my childhood home, and cookouts over backyard fires. (Say, “marshmallows,” “hot dogs,” “S’mores.”)

Autumn brings a harvest of some delightful produce as well, and pumpkin tops the list for many of us.

Hewlett-Packard

Pumpkins grace porches this time of year–just as they’re picked or carved with a face. They provide a pantry item when we pack them up for the freezer. And in my opinion, eating pumpkin pies just make more sense during autumn.

Since I haven’t posted anything food related for awhile, here’s one of my favorite recipes using pumpkin. The cream cheese frosting makes it really special, but even without it, the bars are exceptionally moist.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
¾ c. oil
1 ½ c. sugar
1 16 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and blend.
Spread mixture into a 13” x 9” pan and bake for 25 minutes.
While pumpkin bars are baking, make frosting.

Frosting
1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the cheese and butter. Mix in the vanilla. Add the confectioner’s sugar and blend well. When bars are cooled, spread frosting on top.

If you want to use your own fresh or frozen pumpkin from your pantry, you probably can. I suggest using a food processor or blender to “whip” it into shape. Be sure all the stringy fibers are removed for the best texture.