Imagine….snow falling outside…the family gathered around the fireplace…everyone with a mug of hot chocolate in hand…this is the ideal winter picture. This is the image everyone brings to mind when they think of winter and the Christmas holidays. The key to this image though is the hot chocolate. I mean that’s that comfort drink that brings out the kid everyone. Chocolatey, sweet and so warm to your insides. Funny thing is I stopped liking hot chocolate back when I was still living in New York. It still brings back fond childhood memories though, of when I used to drink it, whenever I prepare it for family and friends.
This past weekend I had a small group of young people over to taste test some hot chocolate recipes I had been working on. We started of with a hot chocolate mix similar to the ones you buy in the stores but better. It was a hit. The secrets to my hot chocolate always getting great reviews are that : 1. I never use water only milk 2. I always add cinnamon when heating up the milk 3. I add vanilla after removing the mixture from the heat. It was really easy to make the mix and it stores for up to 3 months in an airtight container. I added fresh whipped cream to everyone’s hot chocolate once I poured them into cups.
Recipe source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and Food 52
So longing to create new hot chocolate memories of my own I found a hot chocolate I thought I would love. It seemed like I would be drinking a chocolate bar with whipped cream on top. How could I go wrong? The recipe called for dark baking chocolate but I was having a hard time finding it any of the markets I went to so I substituted semi-sweet chocolate instead. Everyone’s thought was that it was too rich including myself. If I were to remake this hot chocolate I would use less chocolate, use a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate, use more milk a little less sea salt in the whipped cream. I do think I have found a way back to liking hot chocolate again.
Sea Salt Chocolate Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
Melted Hot Cocoa
8 Squares (4 ounces) Dark 100% Cocoa Baker’s Chocolate
2 Squares (1 ounce) Semi-Sweet Baker’s Chocolate
2-4 teaspoons honey, depending on how sweet or bitter you like your chocolate
3/4 Cup Whole Milk, at room temperature
Begin by preparing the sea salt whipped cream. Beat the cream and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment at medium-high speed until the cream holds a very soft peak. Gently whisk in the sea salt and cocoa powder until incorporated. Cover and set aside.
To make the hot cocoa, melt down the chocolate pieces in the top of a double boiler, stirring constantly. Add the honey and milk and continue stirring until it’s one fluid mixture and becomes very warm. Evenly distribute the cocoa between two serving glasses and top with the whipped cream and a pinch of sea salt for garnish. Serve immediately.
Recipe source Adventures in Cooking.
How can you make hot chocolate without marshmallows? Exactly so I whipped a batch for this evening of hot chocolate. We dipped some in chocolate candy melts and added sprinkles and crushed peppermints. Here’s the link to the recipe.
With the leftover hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, some candy dipped spoons and a couple of mugs we made a few gifts for my daughter’s teachers. You are now fully equipped to make some wonderful images that will include hot chocolate and even marshmallows. Go forward and make memories.
Most people haven’t thought beyond turkey sandwiches on the day after let alone what’s gonna happen to the leftover leftovers. And by day 3 believe you me your family doesn’t want anything more to do with turkey either. Here’s a way to move beyond that bump in the road.
My one suggestion is to get rid of the turkey. No I don’t mean throw it away. I mean get it out of your family’s eye sight. Then you can re-introduce it at a later time…in a different form. First things first you have to…
Freeze your leftover turkey. Remove you turkey meat from the carcass. Portion them out into plastic freezer bags and date. Try to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.The USDA says that turkey can last in the freezer for up to 4-6 months. If you want to keep it moist when you thaw, freeze with gravy or some stock.
Now that you know how to freeze turkey you need to know what to do with it once you decide to thaw it. Actually this is one for the day after the big meal or the day before the big freeze. This one may get rid of quite a bit of your leftovers and still keep the family interested. Got turkey? Mashed potatoes? Gravy? Vegetables? Then you’ve got the makings of Turkey Shepherd’s Pie.
2 cups cubed leftover turkey meat
1 1/2 cups gravy
2 cups of leftover vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots string beans whatever you like or rather whatever you have on hand)
3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 9″x 9″ pan. Heat gravy and turkey together in a sauce pan. Transfer heated mixture to 9″x 9″pan. Top meat with vegetables and then top vegetables with mashed potatoes (Have potatoes at room temperature or warm some. It makes the next step easier to do). Spreading potatoes out to within a 1/2″ of edge of pan. Sprinkle shredded cheese across top of potatoes. Place pan on top of sheet pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes.
Ok so suppose you still have turkey to freeze after this dish. Consider yourself lucky and proceed to freezing it. What do you do with the turkey when it comes time to thaw. It’s really up to you. Take your favorite recipe and substitute the meat it calls for with your thawed turkey meat. Like Chili or maybe a Brunswick Stew. Or try adding it to a dish that doesn’t traditionally have meat in it like maybe your favorite Mac & Cheese recipe. Use your imagination. .you never know you create a favorite for your family.
I hope this series has helped with the madness of holiday meals. Let me know how this series may or may not have helped you. Leave a comment.
Happy Holidays from Cassandra as The Chef In Pearls and owner of Gems and Baubles. Now go make some memories!
Are you still eating cranberry sauce from a can? I know I say I won’t judge you but I will give you the side-eye for not going fresh. I mean, once you learn how easy it is to make cranberry sauce from scratch you’ll never go canned again.
I want you to walk away from this post with not only the know-how on how to make cranberry sauce but that cranberry sauce ain’t just for turkey. That’s right i said it. You can do so much more with cranberry sauce like appetizers, drinks, entrees and desserts. The sky’s the limit or at least your imagination.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
1 12oz. bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup of water
1-2 cups of granulated sugar
Wash and sort cranberries. Place cranberries in a sauce pan with water and 1 cup of sugar. Allow to simmer. You can add more sugar depending on how sweet you like your sauce. After about 10 minutes of cooking and you can no longer hear the berries popping you can turn off stove. Pour sauce into a bowl and allow to cool. Sauce thickens as it cools.
Here are some other dishes I used cranberry sauce in.
I hope the post has you ditching the can and being inspired by fresh cranberries. CIPapproved
So your gravy is…well…not the best. Lumpy is just the start of what makes your gravy unappealing. So what do we do to make it better? Well we turn to a little math, If you have this little equation you are well on your way to better gravy. 2 + 2 +1= Perfect Gravy. That is 2 Tablespoons of fat plus 2 Tablespoons of flour plus 1 cup of liquid and you’ve got gravy kinda. The only special equipment I suggest for this gravy making task is a whisk,it helps to eliminate lumps.
2 Tablespoons Fat ( butter, olive oil or fat drippings from meat)
2 Tablespoons all Purpose Flour
1 cup Liquid (stock,broth or meat drippings)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Melt fat in a sauce pan. Once melted add flour and allow to cook for about 1-2 minutes. Then add liquid while whisking to prevent lumps. Allow to simmer until thickened 3-5 minutes. Taste so that you can adjust seasonings as needed.
Once you have this basic gravy down then you can get a little fancy with it. You can make a mushroom beef gravy by sauteing freshly sliced mushrooms before melting fat and adding flour and using either a beef broth, stock or dripping from cooked beef. Or maybe you want something a little spicy add cracked peppercorn to the melted fat before adding flour. The varieties are limitless and left only up to your imagination and taste-buds.
Now you’ll be the champion of gravy at your next holiday meal
Have you ever gone to a conference and after just an hour wondered why you were there? I have. You were sold on the wealth of knowledge you would gain by attending and it just never happened. That was not the case at the WE (Women Entrepreneurs) Rock Conference. They set out for females to be able to look at themselves and their businesses differently. And they achieved that.
They provided a place were women in business could come together, learn from each other, network, aspire one another and gain the knowledge they need to take themselves & their businesses to the next level.
Their guest speakers included keynote speakers Jai Stone, of Jai Stone ULTD & Ronnie Tyler, of Tyler New Media LLC and a special inspirational message from Judge Lauren Lakes, of Paternity Court. Their panelists shared information about social media, finances, writing books, answering your calling, making profit on purpose and being able to live a limitless life. There was no way to leave their not motivated and charged up about yourself and your business.
This was the 4th year for WE Rock and they already have plans for a bigger & better event for 2015. They’re taking it on tour so look for them in your city. Visit their website www.WeRockNational.com to find out cities and dates and how you can be apart of the WERock Nation.
Special thanks to the co-founders Melisa Alaba and Edeline Dryden for having the foresight to create such and awesome event.
I grew up in a Jamaican household which means tea was a part of my everyday life. You were not allowed to leave the house without something warm in your tummy. Every ailment was met with a cup of tea…stomach ache… ginger tea…start of a cold… garlic tea. Let’s just say I grew to have a love for tea.
Enter Teavana. ..I had the pleasure of joining The Brains & Beauty Academy meet-up for a tea tasting. We got a chance to taste many blends including Oprah’s chai tea. I enjoyed the subtleness of it in comparison to their Maharaja Oolong Chai blend, which had a strong spiciness to it. But the tea of the day was their Iced Raspberry Limeade. ..addictive. When you get a chance head over to Teavana at Phipps Plaza for a great cup of tea. This is definitely Chef In Pearls approved.
So they passed the baton to you this year. You now have the honor of hosting the holiday meal. Yeah!? Wait a minute you just realized that you’ve never done this before. Time to panic. I mean you know how to cook but a holiday meal? Get those Martha Stewart ideas out of your head… I mean it’s your first holiday meal. Don’t get me wrong she’s phenomenal but kinda makes you crazy trying to get that picture perfect Holiday dinner.
So how do you go about having an unforgettable Holiday meal? Easy….all it takes is planning. “If you don’t have a plan, plan to fail”. It’s true. So here are some steps to get you going in the right direction.
1. Create a menu. Yes, actually know what it is you want to feed people. My rule of thumb is don’t try new dishes unless you have time to try them out beforehand. Stick to the dishes that are your strong points. This is also your opportunity to delegate. Yes it’s okay to ask your aunt who makes the best macaroni & cheese if she would do the honor of gracing your table with a dish. Or if you like you can cater a portion of your meal. I’m not judging and if the people at your table are then maybe you shouldn’t invite them to next year’s holiday meal.
2. Have a head count. Nothing worst than having a table full of people and not enough food for everyone. Talk about embarrassing. Knowing your head count helps you with the next step.
3. Create a shopping list. Now that you know what and how much of it you’ll need to cook. You can make a list of all the things you’ll need to actually cook dinner. Re-check recipes to make sure you have everything listed to complete dishes.
4. Shop. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE TO GROCERY SHOP! Waiting until the last minute causes so many problems. It’s unnecessary stress
b) unable to get all the items you need cause you’re not the only one wanting them
c). You miss out on taking advantage of sales.
5. Prep. Check recipes to see what you can make in advance. Make a timeline going from things that take the longest to the least amount of time. This way you’ll know what dishes need to be started first, do things that will help ease your cooking … like chopping onions and freezing them until you are ready to use.
These are some suggestion to help make your turn at holiday meal hosting easier to handle. If I’ve missed something or you know of anything that can make this easier please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.
My blog is less than a year old which makes me a newbie at blogging. Half the time I’m not even sure if I am doing it right, I learn something new everyday. I don’t have a problem with saying I don’t know something. I think that makes it easier to learn and for people to share. As long as you act like you know people assume that you know and won’t share.
Because I’m new to this blogger game I knew I was going to need help. I needed someone who had the experience, the willingness to teach and a great personality. I turned to Ms. Stacey Taylor, the SistahChick. She felt honored that I would ask her to guide me along this bumpy path of blogging. I felt even more honored that she accepted the role. We connected on so many levels, We are both mothers, entrepreneurs, natuaralistas and fabulous in our 40’s. What more can a newbie want? I know there is a lot of hard work to come but I’m looking forward to it.
P.S. She doesn’t know this but I am officially making her my fairy godmother…hehehe
Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube @thesistahchick. And don’t forget to follow me if you aren’t already on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @TheChefInPearls