December 11, 2009

All I Want For Christmas...

Every year when my kids ask me what I want for Christmas I tell them, "Peace on Earth." I would settle for peace in my general vicinity but as with most folks there always seems to be some drama or excitement going on. At least I'm never bored! My favorite part of the holidays is the family and friend time. I look forward to being surrounded by loved ones exchanging gifts, hugs and laughs.

This is going to sound really hokey but I really do love to give. Receiving is nice but not necessary. If I could I would love to give my children everything they desire. A new car. An acceptance letter from Harvard Divinity. A good job with good pay. Financial security all around and good health would be a bonus. Can I do this? Of course not! They have to work for these things and then they will hopefully reap the rewards. The best gift I can give them is my unconditional love and support, and that I do and have done all of their lives. Unfortunately you can't wrap that up and put it under the tree so I will have to come up with something a bit more tangible.

So what do I really want for Christmas? How about snow on Christmas day? Okay so that's a wish. How about a quiet day spent with my family or an evening out with my husband? Realistically I'd like a toaster that actually works properly - a four slice toaster that does bagels, thank you! A day at the spa is always welcomed. Oh, and as long as we're dreaming, remember diamonds are a girl's best friend. I'm just saying...

What's on your wish list?

December 4, 2009

Chocoholics Unite!

It's getting pretty cold even here in the south and that makes me want to sit by the fire with a delicious cup of hot chocolate and the treat du jour. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around hot chocolate, even if I did live in Florida. We used to go ice skating in the summer (yes, it was an indoor rink) and they sold scalding hot chocolate in Styrofoam cups. It was amazing to be cold in July! I gulped down the boiling brew with my friends while throwing the shaved ice from the Zamboni at one another after our skating sessions. Ahh, good times!

I freely admit that I'm a chocoholic and it is my humble opinion that really good hot chocolate does not come in a pouch you add boiling water to. No, my friends, you must work for really great things and rich, decadent hot chocolate is one of them. You can go to Williams-Sonoma and purchase their shaved hot chocolate but I prefer to make my own mix and keep it sealed in a canister or Tupperware for use at my leisure, not to mention I can tweak it to my personal preference.

Easy Shaved Hot Chocolate Recipe:
Chocolate, any kind, any flavor but keep in mind the finer the chocolate the better the brew.

Using a food processor or sharp knife, chop the chocolate course bits. You want it to be small enough to melt quickly in hot milk. Store chocolate shavings away from heat in a sealed Ziplock, airtight Tupperware or sealed food-safe cello bag inside of a decorative tin and use within 2-3 months. Trust me the use-by-date won't be a problem!

To Make:
  • Milk, whole is preferable but you can substitute 2% if you must.
  • Unsalted Butter, optional but amazing
  • Flavoring of choice
Heat 8 ounces of milk gently on your stove top (or quickly in your microwave oven) and add 1 ounce (about 3 Tablespoons) of the chocolate shavings and stir to melt completely. Tada! You have just made one crazy-good cup of cocoa. Take note from my previously mentioned childhood experiences and make sure you don't make the milk too hot. To make a super rich treat add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter to the milk before heating. Not dietetic by any means but oh so yummy!

Flavor Additions:
  • Flavored chocolate such as peppermint, white chocolate, dark, semi-sweet or milk chocolate bars.
  • Want an Aztec experience made easy? Try the Dagoba Xocolatl Bar with chilies and cocoa nibs, or add a touch of chili powder (just a touch!) to your cup.
  • Add a dash (or more) of Grand Marnier, Peppermint Schnapps, Kahlua, Godiva or Baily's Irish Cream and top with whipped cream.
  • Add any variety of flavor extracts or drink syrups available at your local gourmet market. You only need a touch as they are concentrated. Imagine butterscotch hot chocolate with french vanilla whipped cream drizzled with butterscotch sauce. Mmmm!
  • Garnish with mini chocolate morsels, chocolate curls, colored candy sprinkles or crushed peppermint candies. Rim the edge of the cup a la martini style with colored sugars or edible glitter.
  • Add a swizzle stick. Candy canes, cinnamon sticks or make your own chocolate stirrers with plastic spoons dipped in chocolate.
Here are a few ideas for gifts for your favorite chocoholic: (hint, hint)
  • For the young or young-at-heart Gingerbread Boy S'Mores from William-Sonoma (LOVE this place!)
  • Handmade Marshmallows? Yes!! Melt in your mouth or your cocoa, these blocks of deliciousness will forever change your views on marshmallows in a bag: 2 Sisters Cookie Bakery
  • Create a basket of heavenly delights including your homemade cocoa mix, a large mug, a selection of small bottles of liqueur, decadent chocolates or fancy cookies and a box of handmade marshmallows (yes, Virginia, you can make your own).
Now go start a fire, slip into something cozy, whip up some insanely satisfying hot chocolate and curl up with your favorite (insert book, guy or girl, pillow, pet) - you get the idea.