Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chicken Cacciatore with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Wine

Many food names reflect various occupations or trades. 'Cacciatore' literally means 'hunter' in Italian, and this 'hunter style' dish makes good use of mushrooms (easily available to hunters trekking through forests!), onions tomatoes and herbs. If desired, serve over hot spaghetti noodles.
Chicken Cacciatore with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Wine



There are some people that claims to be able to make this simple dish, but then there are some that cause it to start a World War III, if it was to be served in my country of Italy.
This classic Italian dish must have hundreds of versions, all resulting in a rustic braise of chicken, aromatic vegetables and tomatoes. My version includes lots of mushrooms, both dried and fresh. You can add kale to the dish if you want to work in some leafy greens

½ ounce dried mushrooms, like porcini (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 to 8 skinless chicken legs and/or thighs (thighs can be boneless)
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
3 ribs celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh minced Italian parsley
1 heaped teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
½ cup red wine
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice, pulsed in a food processor

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl or heat-proof glass measuring cup and pour on 2 cups boiling water. Let sit 15 to 30 minutes, until mushrooms are softened. Drain through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel and set over a bowl. Rinse the mushrooms in several changes of water, squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely. Set aside. Measure out 1 cup of the soaking liquid and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown, in batches, for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl as they are done. Pour the fat off from the pan and discard.
Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil and the onion, carrot and celery, as well as a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Cover, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft and aromatic. Stir in the fresh and dried mushrooms, turn the heat back up to medium, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down a little and smell fragrant. Stir in the mushroom soaking liquid that you set aside.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan and stir so that they are well submerged in the tomato mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve with pasta or rice.


Friday, May 13, 2016

One Meal Wonder...Meatloaf

When it comes to meal planning or meal budgeting, one dish stands out above the rest...Meatloaf!
I call it a one meal wonder, because there is nothing more versatile than Meatloaf. Plus, Meatloaf is the king of leftovers. With a little imagination, you can even serve the Meatloaf with a little fun. Here's just a couple of examples.

Spooky hand shaped meatloaf

Individual mouse shaped meatloaf


 Creepy Foot shaped meatloaf


Meatloaf for dinner has been on the tables since the 1950s, if not earlier. Here are some of my favorite recipes.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Brown Sugar and Heinz Ketchup Glaze  

This All-American recipe is meant to be served to a crowd of hungry meat-lovers. Get this ready for your tailgate with classic Heinz ketchup or chili sauce and pile it on your plate for the big game. This one will keep you stuffed all day.
 
½ c. Heinz ketchup or chili sauce
4 tbsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. cider or white vinegar
2 tsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
½ c. whole milk or plain yogurt
2 lb. meat loaf mixture (50% ground chuck, 25% ground pork, 25% ground veal 2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers or 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs 1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced 8 thin-slices bacon (8-12 slices, depending on loaf shape)


Mix ketchup, sugar and vinegar in small saucepan; set aside. Heat oven to 350. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks.) Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9x5 inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160, about 1 hour. Cool at least 20 minutes. Simmer remaining glaze over medium heat until thickened slightly. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze pass separately.



Deadman’s Hand Meatloaf

I made something gruesome and delicious.
No, really, it was good.
This is meatloaf.
Meatloaf with cheese on top.
And some ketchup.
The nails are made of onion.
The wrist bones are onion too.
Where are you going?
This is how I made it:

I made the basic meatloaf recipe (see recipe below).
Covered the hand completely with ketchup.
Used white onion pieces for the fingernails.
Used the center core of a white onion for the wrist bone as well.
If I were to do it again I would have put less cheese around the fingers, or rather, I would have put narrower pieces. The cheese pooled inbetween the fingers and made it more difficult to diguise later on.
This cheese thing, it worked a bit too well. We couldn’t bring ourselves to actually eat either of them
The wrist bone of the white onion was pushed out a bit as the meatloaf cooked.


The Best Basic Meatloaf

¾ c. onion, diced
2 lb. ground meat, meat loaf mix (ground pork, beef and veal)
½ c. ketchup
½ c. mustard, Dijon adds a nice bite
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until evenly combined. Mix it up with your hands, get a little dirty, it's all good. You can make one large loaf or two small loafs from your mixture.  Either way place your loaf/ loaves onto a baking sheet.  Place in the preheated oven for 1 hour for 1 large loaf. If you are going for 2 smaller loaves, reduce cooking time to about 45 minutes.
For an easy glaze you can top the loaf/ loaves with barbecue sauce or ketchup half way through cooking.


Macaroni and Cheese Meatloaf

Looking for a great recipe for meatloaf? Then give this cheesy and delicious meatloaf recipe a try. Combine two classic recipes into one super-tasty quick easy meatloaf recipe. 
 
4 oz. cooked macaroni
1 pound hamburger
½ c. soft bread crumbs
½ c. milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ c. onion, chopped
2 tbsp. green pepper, chopped
1/3 c. Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Cook macaroni according to directions on package. Mix together pasta, hamburger, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, onion, green pepper, cheese, salt and pepper. Shape into loaf. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. 




Saturday, May 7, 2016

It's Time For Ice Cream!!

Homemade Ice Cream...in a Bag!

½ c. half-and-half
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 sandwich ziploc bag
1 gallon ziploc bag
3 c. crushed ice
1/3 c. rock salt

Put first 3 ingredients in the smaller Ziplock bag and seal bag (Make sure it is tightly closed!). Put ice and rock salt in the larger bag and then add the filled small bag. Seal the large bag.
Squeeze bag until ice cream is thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove small bag, unseal, and eat with spoon.

No need to even dirty a bowl!

Lemon Pie Ice Cream

When it comes to desserts, my Nonna’s favorite was always “anything lemon.” Cakes, pies, muffins, you name it. She loved sweet stuff so much that ice cream was considered a grocery staple. The weekend forecast calls for luscious lemon ice cream that’s made with whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk. Mix, chill, and partake of the good life. No ice cream maker needed.
Turmeric gives the ice cream a subtle yellow hue. Not that looks matter, but a visual hint of the flavor is always nice. If you want to make a showoff type dessert, swirl a little lemon curd into ice cream. As for the cookie crumbs, they’re purely optional. But crumbs do lend a more authentic pie feeling to the ice cream.
I remember my Nonna making dinner one day and letting me snack on ice cream with her. Uh oh, I wasn’t supposed to tell.
Carry on and eat dessert first.

1/3 c. lemon juice
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. turmeric, optional
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream, whipped
½ c. cookie or graham cracker crumbs, optional

In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, turmeric, and zest. Blend this mixture into prepared whipped cream. Fold in cookie crumbs if you feel like it. Pour ice cream into a loaf pan or other storage container. Freeze for 3-4 hours before serving. Let frozen ice cream sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before scooping. Or grab a hair dryer and use a little hot air to get the party started early.

No Churn Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

If The Better Half had to choose a favorite dessert, it would be chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  Our freezer would have a pint of chocolate peanut butter Haagen-Daz in it at all times. But up until recently, I had never been able to make her, her favorite treat because I don’t have an ice cream maker! I just don’t have room to store it, so it is one appliance I’ve decided I don’t need. But then I discovered no churn ice cream, and what a dangerous discovery it was.

No Churn ice cream is so ridiculously easy to make! And you really only need two base ingredients,,,heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. So I played around with this perfect no churn base and came up with No Churn Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

1 pint heavy cream
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. chocolate (finely chopped then melted, I use Ghirardelli Bittersweet)
½ c. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (mini, chopped)
½ c. peanut butter (I used JIF extra crunchy)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip cream to stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, stir together the melted chocolate and the sweetened condensed milk until well combined. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, and keep folding until fully incorporated. Fold in the Reese's. Pour half of the ice cream mixture into a loaf pan. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until very soft and almost liquid. Spoon half of the peanut butter over the first half of the ice cream, then gently swirl it into the ice cream with the tip of a butter knife. Pour the rest of the ice cream on top. Spoon the rest of the peanut butter on top and gently swirl it into the ice cream.
Cover the loaf pan tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 4- 6 hours.

No Churn Coffee Ice Cream

I'm almost embarrassed at how easy this is but, as you will find out, simple though it is to make, its flavor is deep, complex and utterly compelling.
So, here's how it goes: you don't make custard and you don't need an ice-cream maker. You could (and I often do) serve it with a chocolate sauce.

2 c. Heavy cream
14 oz. Sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. instant coffee granules

Whisk all the ingredients together until soft peaks form, and you have a gorgeous, cafe latte colored airy mixture, and then fill a loaf pan cover with foil or in plastic airtight containers, and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the freezer.

No Churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream

This super simple kid friendly No Churn Cookie Monster Ice cream is loaded with Oreo cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Super simple recipe with NO Ice Cream Maker needed. The bright blue color is a HUGE hit with the kiddos. Parents, the blue color might be a bit bright for you but this ice cream is super delish and fun to make together.
Cold treats during the summer are always so fun. The kids get so excited when you whip up something special for them to enjoy on the hot summer days. This ice cream is going to be popular this summer.
This Cookie Monster Ice Cream is so simple. I mention that you will need NO Ice Cream maker. In just a few minutes time, you can have this fun cookie loaded ice cream in your freezer. Plus the recipe only needs cookies, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Super simple.

2 c. Heavy Cream
1 (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tbsp. Vanilla
½ tsp. Blue Food Coloring
20 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (like Oreos)
15 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Break up 15 sandwich cookies and 10 chocolate chip cookies and set aside. Whip heavy cream, food coloring and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Beat in condensed milk until color is uniform. Add additional food coloring if needed. Fold in broken cookies and transfer to loaf pan. Break up all remaining cookies and use to decorate top of pan.
Place in freezer for at least 5 hours.

No Churn Oreo Ice Cream

2 c. heavy whipping cream
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. Oreo Cookies
1 tsp vanilla


Crush 2/3 of cookies in food processor. Crumble remainder by hand to get variety of size pieces. In a large bowl, whisk, heavy cream and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold in condensed milk until blended. Fold in crushed cookies. Spread this mixture into a loaf pan. Cover with foil and freeze for 6 hours or until firm.

ONE (OR TWO) INGREDIENT BANANA PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM

Did you know that bananas has magic powers?
Did you know that when you blend a frozen banana for a few minutes that it turns into ice cream?
ICE CREAM!!! Did you hear what I said?  Blending a frozen banana TURNS INTO ICE CREAM!!! 
And when you add a spoonful of peanut butter to the blended frozen banana…
You get banana peanut butter ice cream.  Truly, it’s a miracle if you ask me.
Literally, it couldn’t be simpler.
I know. It’s blows my mind too.
So the next time your kids want ice cream for breakfast, say “okay”.

2 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
1 tablespoon of peanut butter

In a strong blender or mini food processor, add the sliced, frozen banana. Pulse the mixture, scraping down the sides occasionally until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and pulse until combined. You can serve immediately (ice cream will be soft), or put in a freezer safe container and freeze for later.

Notes
Recipe can easily be doubled, or tripled! Just use a bigger food processor!
The banana will go through different stages. First, it will become somewhat chalky and grainy. Scrape down sides and keep blending. Next it will be become gooey. Keep scraping and blending. Finally after a few minutes the gooey mixture will turn into a creamy frozen treat! It's delicious on its own, but I love the addition of peanut butter!
Also try any of these additions...
Chocolate chips
Honey
Almond butter
Cocoa powder
Peanuts
Cashews

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Wee Bit of Irish

I’ve been told that it is happy hour somewhere, so I might as well have a drink.  Although it was enough reasoning for me in college, that’s hardly the case now.  It may be a little too excessive to drink whiskey and heavy cream with my morning coffee even if it is St. Patrick’s Day.
This Irish coffee mousse is a great way to be part of the party without the unwanted side affects of too much alcohol.  Its also a dessert you can get away with eating anytime of the day, including breakfast.  With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, this is a perfect little treat to get into the spirit.
I have a soft spot for whiskeys and bourbons, especially Jameson.  Jameson is a great whiskey to incorporate into desserts because of its smooth finish and lingering caramel after tones.  The slight bitterness of the espresso mixed with the whiskey is mellowed out by the dollop of sweet whipped cream.  I also added some cocoa nibs to break up the monotony of the creamy texture with a little bit of crunch.  Crushed cookies or biscotti would work just as well.
Mousse based desserts are extremely easy to make and can be prepared a day in advance.  This dessert requires few ingredients and little kitchen time.  Not only is it simple to make, its very satisfying and delicious.  You can serve it in a ramekin or dress it in up cute little jars.  Its a perfect dessert to serve at dinner parties as it will surely impress your guests.  Who doesn’t like mousse?  Its rich, smooth, creamy, and full of flavor.  Its like ice cream but grown up and more mature.

Irish Whiskey Parfaits


6 large egg yolks
½ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. Irish whiskey
2 c. heavy cream
¼ c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ c. raspberry preserves

Beat egg yolks in mixer bowl, gradually adding granulated sugar. Continue beating until mixture is thick and pale. Beat in whiskey gradually. Transfer to a large bowl.
Beat cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a clean mixer bowl until stiff. Gently fold whipped cream 1/3 at a time, into egg yolks.
Spoon cream mixture alternating with thin layers of preserves, into parfait glasses. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Oh To Be So Sweet and Porky

This is a super easy 30 minute one pot dish. The apples turn out like those sweet baked cinnamon apples you can order on the side in homestyle restaurants. You know the ones you can’t decide to eat for dinner or dessert? Yeah those.
They are tender and brown sugar sweet with just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. The pecans add a little richness and some crunch. Unless you’re already a nut like me (Just ask Janis, she’ll tell you I’m already nutty enough).
Pork chops are not in my normal dinnertime wheelhouse. I have a TON of chicken recipes, but if you’ve been reading here awhile, you might remember that my nonna and her cooking skills basically made pork chops lover out of me for approximately 20 years.
Anyway. These are not those. The pork chops turn out tender and juicy. The sauce is brown sugar buttery. All of it together is gonna be your new favorite fall meal.



Caramel Apple Pork Chops

4 (¾ inch) thick pork chops 
1 teaspoon vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
salt and pepper to taste 
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 
2 tablespoons butter 
2 tart apples - peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 175. Place a medium dish in the oven to warm.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush chops lightly with oil and place in hot pan. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, or until done. Transfer to the warm dish, and keep warm in the preheated oven.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add butter to skillet, and stir in brown sugar mixture and apples. Cover and cook until apples are just tender. Remove apples with a slotted spoon and arrange on top of chops. Keep warm in the preheated oven.
Continue cooking sauce uncovered in skillet, until thickened slightly. Spoon sauce over apples and chops. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

So…I’ve been thinking

You know I love you. Right? You know I would never bring you any harm or ill will. But when It comes to being in the kitchen, there are things that are beyond my control. Just remember, that whatever comes out of the kitchen, it is with love and nothing more.
For you should by now know, that what I do in the kitchen is purely out of my love for you.



If I decide to just nix this whole blogging thing and instead open a hot chocolate truck and drive around the country, would you guys support that decision? I need to know these things before I hit the open road. That way, I could come to you and deliver you your hot chocolate flavor of choice. We might even sell tacos, too. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. (cough cough)
But in all honesty, if you thought hot chocolate was a good idea, this super rich peanut butter hot chocolate will completely blow you away.
It blew me away! So much so that I actually purred when I tried it while standing over the stove.
Wait, what?
I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of this so I can hardly take credit for such a delicious, creamy, mouth-watering, decadent creation of the gods.
It’s like drinking a chocolate bar covered in peanut butter—definitely a dessert in and of itself and best topped with fresh whipped cream and salted roasted peanuts.
And if your jeans feel tight after drinking this, it’s best just to blame the dryer. And then use that as an excuse to go shopping.
I’m doing this because I love you.
I promise I’ll feature something healthy with vegetables in it soon. Just not today.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk
1 tbsp. peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together milk, cocoa powder, vanilla and sugar in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a simmer and then add the peanut butter, stirring well to get rid of any clumps.
Pour into your favorite mug and serve with whipped cream and salted peanuts!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tis The Season For Hot Chocolate!

Christmas and Hot Chocolate goes hand in hand, they both warms you up inside and makes you cheerful and happy. So I thought I would share my recipes of different Hot Chocolate recipes that I have made over the years. So from my kitchen to yours, have a very Merry Christmas. May it be filled with lots of love and good eats.

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate

Just when I thought I had made everything with red velvet that was under the sun, I thought of another fun way and it is sooo sinfully delicious too. In fact, drinking this is like having a whole cake in one cup.

Red velvet cake is a classic dessert. However, sometimes a classic needs a little change. When it's cold outside, this hot chocolate recipe will warm you up and keep that fun red velvet look!
Red velvet cake is synonymous with delicious. It's a classic Southern treat that has hit it big in bakeries all across the nation. However, don't be scared to think outside the box when you want this sweet treat.

A fun way to switch things up is by taking the idea of this traditional cake and turning it into a delicious hot chocolate recipe. Its bright color and delicious chocolate taste will tickle both children and adults with delight. Plus, it's a few less calories than devouring a whole cake.

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 teaspoon red gel no taste food coloring
Whipping cream
Vanilla sugar (see Chef’s Note below)

Vanilla sugar whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar ( see Chef’s Note below)

For whipped cream: Add heavy cream and vanilla sugar to a cold metal bowl. Either whip by hand with whisk or with hand-held mixer until soft peaks form.
For hot chocolate: In a small pan, combine milk, chocolate morsels and food coloring. Gently simmer until hot and all the chocolate is melted. I like to use a small whisk to make sure everything is incorporated. Top with freshly whipped cream.

Chef’s Note: To make Vanilla Sugar without having to use Vanilla Beans (Which are rare and expensive in Grocery Stores) just use Vanilla Extract and Sugar in a ratio of one teaspoon of Vanilla Extract to every two cups of regular granulated sugar. Then spread the well mixed vanilla sugar on a baking pan lined with wax paper to dry.

Raspberry White Hot Chocolate
This warm, comforting drink is made with real raspberry puree and white chocolate. It's beautiful, delicious, and tastes like melted berries and cream ice cream! This is also my fiance's favorite!

12 oz. raspberries, fresh or defrosted from frozen
2 tbsp. sugar
2 c. milk
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 tbsp. Milk
1 tbsp. Cornstarch

Sprinkle the sugar on the raspberries and toss to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until they start to soften and release their juices. Blend the raspberries in a blender. You should be left with about ¾ cup of puree. If you have more, save it for another use.
 Add milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer—you want bubbles to appear along the sides of the pan’s edges, but don’t bring it to a full boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped white chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted, then add the berry puree, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix 2 tablespoons of milk and cornstarch together and add to the chocolate mixture. Stir until mixture is thickened.
Serve immediately with whipped cream and fresh berries on top. It can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat it in the microwave or on the stove top.
Notes
For the best taste and texture, do not substitute white chips for the chopped white chocolate bar. Chips are usually made with palm oil instead of cocoa butter, and they tend to be hard to melt. If you find chips made with cocoa butter, those are a fine substitute, otherwise, look for white chocolate bars. This makes a thick drink, and if you prefer a thinner one, add more milk until you get a texture you like.

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet?  If not, this will do the trick. Gingerbread Hot Cocoa is like drinking a chocolate gingerbread cookie! It’s Christmas in a cup if I ever saw one.
You know every year by the time Christmas is over I am REALLY Christmased out…like, don’t even TRY to bring me a cup of Christmas on the night of the 26th, I have already started to think about what salad creations I am going to make because I have had a little TOO much comfort, a little TOO much Christmas. But that time hasn’t come yet- boy, I am going gung-ho with the red and green, the elves, the peppermint…send it ALL my way. And bring me as many cups of Christmas right now as you want.

4 c. milk
½ c. cocoa powder
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. white sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. vanilla 
¼ tsp. sea salt
whipped cream for topping

In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat milk. While warming the milk, combine the cocoa powered, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk into the milk until hot. Serve with whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cheesecake Hot Chocolate
  
This white hot chocolate from scratch tastes just like cheesecake in a cup without having to wait for a whole cheesecake to bake. Cheesecake craving satisfied in 15 minutes? Done.
Ah, the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve?) Today pretty much marks my finish line for Christmas baking. I’m not sure why I do this every year. I cram all the Christmas things into one month and ended up posting four times a week the past two weeks because I have so many Christmas recipes to share (my average is 2-3 times a week). I have so many ideas that I even wrote up a list for next year (I’m also known to plan ridiculously ahead). I wanted my last post before Christmas to be a super easy holiday drink, and what better drink defines me best than Cheesecake Hot Chocolate? I’m not even sure where this idea came from. Of course I love cheesecake oh so very much, but who thinks of drinking it? Maybe I had a dream about it as I dream about recipes all the time. If you ever ask me at any given moment what I’m thinking about, 99.99459394 percent of the time, it’s food. 51.809843 percent of the time, it’s cheesecake. What’s best about this recipe is you can satisfy your cheesecake craving now rather than wait for a whole cheesecake to bake and cool. Whether you’re looking for a new hot chocolate recipe to try or you just simply love cheesecake as much as I do, Cheesecake Hot Chocolate is the way to go when the weather outside is frightful (sorry, I had to).
I love hot chocolate. It’s what I drink in the winter evenings when it’s too late to drink coffee or when I want something sweet but ran out of cookies and don’t feel like baking. I used white chocolate so the drink would actually look like cheesecake in a cup. I’m sure it would taste just as good with semisweet or even dark chocolate (dark chocolate is my favorite), but I do like my white chocolate version.
There is one very important step to making this cheesecake hot chocolate successful the cream cheese needs to be at room temperature, or even slightly softer (without risking food safety, of course). I’d even recommend microwaving it slightly (without the foil wrapper!) if you’re in a hurry. You see, when your cream cheese is cold, even slightly chilled, it becomes lumpy. You can sorta get away with that if you’re baking a cheesecake, but you do not want lumpy hot chocolate. Trust me. If you ignore my warning and do end up with lumps, you can use a blender to help save it. I also find that Philadelphia cream cheese melts a little more smoother than a few other brands. Just a small warning the drink does thicken as it cools down. Just heat it back up in the microwave or add some more milk.

Cheesecake Hot Chocolate
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature* and cut into 16 pieces
Graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, warm up the milk over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Turn the heat down to low then whisk in the vanilla cream cheese until melted. Whisk in the white chocolate until melted and smooth. Serve immediately** with whipped cream and graham cracker crumbs on top, if desired.

Notes; *The cream cheese needs to be at room temperature or even slightly softer (without risking food safety). Otherwise, the hot chocolate mixture may become lumpy. If it does become lumpy, you can use the blender to help smooth it.
**The drink does thicken as it cools down. Just heat it back up in the microwave.