The other day while digging through my ridiculously deep and narrow cabinets, I knocked over a zip-top bag of granulated Swerve sweetener and upon picking it up discovered that it wasn’t sealed. Insert mildly colorful words as I watched the sugar pour out over everything. Why I continue to stock all my flours and sugars in the very back of the cabinet remains a mystery (not another pregret, just stupidity).
That incident really has nothing to do with making hot cocoa mix, other than the fact that hot cocoa is a sugar explosion in a cup instead of my cabinet. But for awhile now, I have been wondering how to make a mix version of peanut butter hot cocoa. Mixing the peanut butter spread itself into the steamy drink works fairly well, but I wanted an easier method. Then I realized that the mix I have been making for a couple years now uses white chocolate chips, and could easily substitute for peanut butter chip! Could it really be that simple? Yup, it certainly is! I thought of being bold and replacing it all with peanut butter chips, but I really like the flavor white chocolate adds to this so I kept some of it around as a sidekick.
We also need to talk about the giant Reese’s cups that I found at Target. TWO HALF POUND CUPS! They are freaking beautiful, people. If I had had a cart I would’ve knocked over the entire display. Instead I modestly placed 3 packages in my hand basket. But it got me thinking… Since it is peanut butter lover’s month you should definitely buy those giant Reese’s cups and make this hot cocoa as the perfect gift for the peanut butter lovers’ in your life! I know such a combination would win me over, and I am definitely a peanut butter lover ;-).
Side note: I wonder if the Swerve powdered sugar (which did not have a release party in my cabinet) would work well in this hot cocoa? I shall try it out and get back to you. Speaking of Swerve, don’t forget to enter my Swerve baking kit giveaway! And my second blogiversary giveaway (including a jar of regular homemade hot cocoa mix) ends tonight.
In other semi peanut butter-related news, The Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Wisconsin Badgers today @ 3:30 eastern time! It’s an away game so we don’t have the home field advantage, but we already won our division last weekend even though we had a Bye (because Penn State lost). Unfortunately we won’t be able to contend our status in the B1G championship game, but we can at least enjoy the ride until then. And hopefully knock out Michigan (next week) on the way O:-).
If someone asks me to review a wine it’s probably going to be answered in the affirmative, especially if it is a red wine. When told I would be sent a sample of Campo Viejo’s 2010 Tempranillo I thought surely it would be a small, single-serving bottle. Turns out I was provided with a full-sized bottle which ended up going to Nashville with me two weekends ago for a visit to one of my best friends from back home (who is currently living in that area).
Most of the time when I drink wine, it is not with a meal. So Becky and I decided to take the light cheese pairing suggestion on the bottle quite literally and drank this up with a platter full of crackers and mild white cheeses while watching a movie (and yes this was our dinner). Pairing with these mild cheeses was definitely the right choice because the wine itself does not have a particularly strong flavor, and may have been lost behind the flavors of a sharp cheese. That doesn’t mean it didn’t have good flavor, but for me I like having a wine that can stand alone (again going with my typical fashion of drinking wine by itself and not with a meal). In my limited experience with wine varieties, I tend to prefer Cabernet Sauvignons.
The makers of Campo Viejo also have created a three-course tasting menu which is designed to be enjoyed with the 2010 Tempranillo. The menu was inspired by survey results showing that cheeses, meats and pies were the most preferred winter foods. I actually wish I had made any one of these menu items to go along with the wine, since I may have cut it short by only sampling it with a platter-full of cheese. One of these days I will learn the art of wine-and-food pairings.
Overall I wasn’t blown away by this wine, but I did enjoy trying a different red for a change.
“A versatile table choice. The deep cherry hues and intense red fruit notes make this young wine incredibly approachable, while hints of vanilla, cocoa and spice make this bottle an ideal choice for the indoor months”
THREE-COURSE TASTING MENU
First Course: Truffle Mac and Cheese
The truffles reflect the earthy undertones in the Tempranillo, and the richness of the cheese is balanced by the wine’s modest acidity.
1-16 oz. box elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp salt
1 quart whole milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp white truffle oil, divided
12 oz. Comté cheese, grated
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Shaved truffles for garnish, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10×13 baking pan.
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and a drizzle of olive oil to boiling water. Add pasta and cook al dente (slightly underdone is better than overdone). Drain, rinse briefly under cold water and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the milk over low heat until hot, but not boiling.
- Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until melted. Reduce heat and add the flour, whisking constantly to form a smooth paste, about 2 minutes. Add in rosemary, continuing to mix.
- Gradually whisk in the hot milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon of the truffle oil, then mix the Comté and cheddar until melted. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).
- Add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to coat, and pour into baking pan.
- Top with the Panko bread crumbs and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.
- Before serving, drizzle with remaining truffle oil and shaved truffles (if desired). Serve hot.
Second Course: Moroccan Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Tempranillo and lamb are a classic pairing, and the spices found here share the spotlight with those of the Tempranillo.
1-1/2 lbs. ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, diced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika, divided
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Sauté onion in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet until soft. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine ground lamb, egg, onion, raisins (if using), cumin, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Form mixture into one ounce balls, about the size of ping pong balls.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs (in several batches if necessary) and sauté for about 8 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm.
- In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, cayenne and remaining paprika and sauté for about a minute until fragrant, making sure not to burn. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Season with salt to taste.
- Remove meatballs from oven and add to sauce. Cook for another five minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Serve with couscous or rice.
Third Course: Apple Turnovers with Maple-Mascarpone Glaze
Maple and cinnamon inspire homeward bound thinking, while the apple embraces the Tempranillo’s fruit-forward notes.
PASTRY AND FILLING
4 cups Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium apples), peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1-17.3 oz. package frozen puff pastry sheets – thawed
1-2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place apples in a bowl and drizzle lemon juice over them, tossing gently to coat.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apples to skillet and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
- Mix together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl. Pour into the skillet and mix well. Cook for another minute or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat to cool.
- Unfold puff pastry sheets and trim each sheet into a square. Cut each one into 4 smaller squares. Spread apples onto the middle of each square, then fold each square in half to form a triangle. Press ends together to seal. Place the triangles 1-2 inches apart, on a slightly greased baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the top of each turnover with beaten egg whites.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until turnovers are puffed and lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely.
- To make the glaze, mix together the mascarpone and maple syrup in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over the cooled turnovers and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.
Source: Recipes and recipe photos provided to me by Nicole from The Thomas Collective via e-mail.
Disclaimer: I received one bottle of Campo Viejo’s 2010 Tempranillo to sample. I was not compensated for this review, and the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Am I posting too many breakfast recipes lately? For some reason I have been splitting at the seams with things I want for breakfast and it definitely shows on here. Even with World Nutella day on the horizon (which is the same day as the Superbowl this year) the spirit of breakfast still has yet to cease. Let’s just compromise for this momentous holiday by pre-gaming with a Nutella smoothie, mmk? You really cannot argue with someone telling you to have Nutella for breakfast.
One year ago: Buffalo Chicken Nachos
2 Tbsp oats
1/2 frozen sliced banana
2 Tbsp Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup 2% milk
- In a rocket blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Source: The Spiffy Cookie original
If you haven’t yet, vote for my Funfetti Truffle Chocolate Cupcakes in the “So You Wanna Be a CakeSpy” contest! I’m not sure at what time, but a winner should be announced sometime today:
- Like on Facebook (<–click)
- Like on Flickr (<–click)
- Leave a comment on the bottom of CakeSpy’s post (<–click)
While we are on the topic of food contests, I entered a chili contest on Saturday and came in second by 2 votes! Want the recipe? It’s the spiced up version of my dad’s chili recipe, found HERE.
But wait, there have been other battles going on lately. As you know I’ve already tackled my fear of adding spinach to a smoothie with the berry detox smoothie, but next was the green spinach smoothie affectionately named the Green Monster – you cannot hide from the spinach-green color of this one! Despite the green-ness, my reaction to this smoothie may have even been better than to the non-green spinach-containing smoothie. It was creamy and slightly sweet without a single sign of spinach, other than the color.
This was the first combination I tried, with a little pineapple in there. Second time I tried with mango and couldn’t taste much of a difference. But I have seen many other additions floating around other blogs and I plan to test them out as well. For now I was very pleased with this one and plan on making it again. Spinach, for the win!
GREEN MONSTER SPINACH SMOOTHIE
1/2 frozen sliced banana
1/4 cup frozen pineapple or mango
1/2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 cups baby spinach (or more, or less)
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Source: Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats.
I’ve seen many variations of the green monster detox smoothie going around after the binge-eating holiday season. But I wasn’t quite ready to try out that green concoction despite many people saying they cannot tell there is spinach in it. Sorry for being a skeptic, but I had to try one that at least looked like it was still mostly fruit.
When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be my stepping stone. Strangely enough I could taste the single tablespoon of peanut butter more than the full cup of spinach in this. But the fruit was definitely the stronger flavor over all. I may be trying out that green monster soon after all!
One year ago: Salmon Florentine
BERRY DETOX SMOOTHIE
Makes 1 large or two small servings
1-1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 cup water
1 cup spinach or baby spinach leaves
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp honey
- In a blender or a food processor, add berries, water & banana. Blend until smooth. Add in spinach and blend. Add in peanut butter, vanilla, honey and sugar. Blend until incorporated.
Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake
This homemade mix was given as part of the gifts to my family this year. After Kate notified me of the depleted stock I had made last year, I took that as a hint/demand for more. Even though the previous recipe was delicious, I always spring on the opportunity to try out a new blend. Salted caramel seemed like a more than safe bet for being delicious.
Making this recipe definitely has a couple more steps – you have to make the caramel first and then pulverize it into powder – but is not as time consuming as it may first appear. Although noisy it most definitely was. I thought my food processor was dying at first hearing how loud the caramel pieces were whirling around in there, but thankfully all was well. Good thing too because I need to make more of this for myself after trying a sample.
One year ago: Bacon and Cheese Egg McMuffin Cups
SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE MIX
Makes 4 cups of mix – enough for 16 servings approximately
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably good-quality Dutch process)
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup cornstarch (optional – makes for a creamier, thicker finished product and also helps your mix not clump in storage)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (preferably from a block, but chocolate chips will work too)
- Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper, set aside.
- In a medium pan, preferably non-stick, place the sugar over medium heat and allow it to melt gently without stirring. The edges and underneath will start to melt first and caramelize, you can then very gently jiggle the pan to help more of the sugar melt in to the mixture. This will only take 4 to 5 minutes at the most so don’t walk away, just watch your sugar melt into caramel and let it get to a medium golden color then remove from the heat and add the vanilla and sea salt. It will bubble a bit, so be careful and swirl the pan to mix it just a bit. It’s not really important if it mixes in because it’s all going to be pulverized in the food processor when hard.
- While the caramel is still liquid, pour it out onto your lined baking sheet and allow it to harden and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Use the bottom of your pan, a mallet, or rolling pin, to tap the caramel a few times and break it up into smallish pieces that you can easily fit into your food processor.
- Place the caramel shards into the food processor and with the lid completely closed allow the caramel to be pulverized into a fine powder – it will be loud at first and then more quiet as the caramel is turned into caramel powder. Don’t open the lid of the food processor until the powder has settled. This will all only take about 4 minutes.
- Add cocoa, dry milk powder, cornstarch and brown sugar to the caramel powder in the food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times to chop and combine thoroughly, then process for 15 seconds until combined and powdery.
- Too the cocoa/caramel mixture, add the chocolate. Pulse the mixture a few times to chop and combine, then allow to process for 15 to 30 seconds more or until the mixture is all combined and powdery. Don’t process it so long though that you start to melt the chocolate in your food processor.
- Store the mixture in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
- To make a cup: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of mix to 1-1/4 cup hot milk and whisk or stir well. Top with whipped cream.
Source: Budget Gourmet Mom
Of all the chocolate things that are made better by adding peanut butter, it never occurred to me to do the same to hot cocoa. So after seeing this recipe, I knew that it would be mine. And it was as dreamy as I had imagined. I even extra peanut butter-ified it by using peanut butter Oreos. What would have been even more splendid is if I had had some peanut butter marshmallows. Do they exist? If not I need to make them. Or better yet, someone make them for me, please?
This is also the first time I’ve used my Spiffy Cookie mug for anything! More pictures of it can be seen on Facebook.
PEANUT BUTTER HOT CHOCOLATE WITH OREO CRUMBS
1/3 cup homemade hot cocoa mix (or 1 envelope store-bought mix)
1 cup hot milk
1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 Oreo cookie, crushed
- Combine all ingredients in a mug and enjoy!
Source: Adapted slightly from My Fabulous Recipes
In the past, you would never catch me drinking a mojito. Just like mint ice cream, it fells very wrong to swallow something that is minty. Think about it, throughout out childhood we are forbidden from swallowing anything minty: gum, toothpaste, mouth wash. So why on earth did I go for not only a mojito, but one made with mint infused simple syrup? For some strange reason it sounded delicious to me – maybe it was the strawberries.
After the club soda exploded all over me (it had been sitting there undisturbed for two days – it was possessed), the mojito was successfully made and enjoyed. It was a bit sweeter than the mojitos I have tried in the past, and the mint flavor was not as strong. And I liked that. Give me another round, please and thank you.
Makes 1 drink
6-8 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
2-1/2 oz mint simple syrup, divided (recipe below)
2 oz rum
1-1/2 oz club soda
1/2 cup fresh strawberries
Juice of one lime
- Combine strawberries, rum, 1.5 oz simple syrup and lime juice into a blender and puree until smooth. Gently mix in the club soda, set aside.
- In the bottom of a glass, add 1 oz simple syrup and the mint leaves. Muddle with a muddler or use the clean bottom of something blunt. Add ice to the glass, and pour in the blended mixture. Mix with a long spoon or knife and serve with an additional sprig of mint.
MINT SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
10 fresh mint leaves
- Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat just until it bubbles. Turn down to low for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
Hope everyone enjoyed a labor-free weekend! Or at least a reduced amount of labor. I certainly took advantage of some lazy-time on Saturday, watching every college football game I could find on TV starting with my Buckeyes at 11 am.
I am so glad college football is back in season. And to celebrate I kicked off the day with a beermosa. Initially I thought it sounded really gross to mix beer with liquor, and then orange juice. But don’t knock it until you try it! I was pleasantly surprised by this beverage, and it may be a staple for every 11am game. It’s the mimosa for football fans!
2 oz orange flavored vodka
6 oz light beer, of your choice
4 oz orange juice
- Pour vodka into a large glass, followed by beer and then orange juice. Stir and enjoy!
Source: Taylor Tailgates