Holiday Hot Chocolate

With the holidays quickly approaching, I guess now is as good a time as any to share an easy holiday gift idea.

Last Christmas, we decided to whip up a batch of our favorite hot chocolate and included it in a sweet package with a warm throw for our far-away-family members who face far chillier winters than we do!
hot choc with throwHere’s a look at the note we included with the package:
hot chocolate noteWe recycled some coffee jars and painted the lids red.  And the labels were easy enough to create.  We just printed them on sticker paper and affixed them to the jars.  We finished them off with some cute ribbon.
hot chocolateEveryone seemed to enjoy their little packages.  In plenty of time for holiday gift giving, here’s the recipe we use.  Let us know if you decide to try it.

Fetch Ranch Hot Chocolate

1 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa (choose Dutch or Valrhona cocoa – World Market sometimes has good choices)
2 tsp cornstarch
2 cups powdered sugar
a large pinch cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups Nido powdered milk (we have found this at our local grocery store but Wal-mart may carry it, or a Latin market)
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients well.  We usually add a little more cayenne since we like it to have a little bit of a kick.  I wouldn’t skip it…add a little and see how you like it!  Fill a mug 1/2 full with the cocoa mix.  It will seem like a lot but it’s a perfect amount for rich, creamy, hot cocoa.  Add hot water to fill mug.  Top with some marshmallows or whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Here’s a look at another sweet Christmas treat idea from last year. 

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A Salad for Fall

I don’t know about you but I am so ready for fall!  And since we don’t have fall-like temperatures in Florida just yet, we have to pretend it’s here by adding autumn decorations and and incorporating some cooler weather recipes to our menus.

Now, I understand that a salad is a lighter meal and typically associated with summer fare.  But when I found this recipe, its ingredients sort of shouted “Hey, don’t you know it’s fall already?!”  I mean what about fresh apples and maple syrup doesn’t make you want to put on a warm sweater and cuddle under a cozy blanket?!  Okay, we’d be sweating if we did that since it’s still 90 degrees here so we’ll just stick with the salad for now.

The basics of this salad are from The Kitchy Kitchen with a few adjustments to suit our tastes.

saladFuji Apple, Bacon, Pecan Salad with Maple Yogurt Dressing

4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked to your desired crispness and diced
1 fuji apple, thinly sliced
3/4 cup pecan halves – we candied ours!*
enough salad greens to feed 2 people – we used a baby spinach/arugula mix
we also added in a diced tomato and some bleu cheese crumbles

Dressing:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 pinch salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and stir to combine. In a big bowl,  combine the bacon, apples, pecans, and greens and whatever other ingredients you want in your salad then mix with as much dressing as you like.

If you are like us, you probably thought “maple syrup with yogurt?  hmmm, i’m just not sure…”  Just trust us.  Try it.  And you’ll be sure that it is one of the best tasting, light salad dressings you’ve ever put on your tastebuds!!

*The candied pecans were a pretty quick addition – and they are fantastic in this salad.  We just melted some butter in a pan along with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Once combined and a little bubbly, we added the pecans and let them cook for a few minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn in the sugar.  Then we coated them in a little powdered sugar.

Enjoy!  And happy fall!

Carrots You’ll Want to Eat

Back in early April, Jessa decided to grow carrots in her section of the garden.
IMG_2994This week, she was able to harvest a large bunch of them.
IMG_3393
IMG_3513One little carrot in particular made us chuckle…
IMG_3519Looks a little like a leg model, eh?

While she originally planned to just feed them to the horse, we thought we’d try them out too.  Now, this family doesn’t love carrots.  But, here’s a recipe that I’ve found works for everyone’s tastebuds and keeps them from turning up their noses at this vegetable.
IMG_3523

Sweet and Savory Carrots

1-2 c of carrots sliced thin
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Place sliced carrots in pot and just barely cover them with water.  Add butter, sugar, and salt to pot and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan and reduce to a simmer.  Cook the carrots about 7 or 8 minutes then remove the lid and raise the heat a little.  Let the water reduce until it almost evaporates.  This takes a few minutes and creates a delicious sauce for the carrots.  Check your seasonings and adjust if necessary.