Recipes: Warm Up With My Favorite Hot Cocoa...

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Ohhhh, hot cocoa. Don't you just love it? It's the only time marshmallows actually taste appropriate to me. I love my cocoa dark & rich and most certainly made with whole organic milk. Trust: this is some of the best cocoa you'll ever enjoy this side of the Alps. 

The method? Brace yourself for my under-a-minute recipe. 

WHAT YOU NEED

Williams-Sonoma Hot Cocoa Mix // Set of 4 White Mugs // Breville Milk Frother (or my trusty Nespresso Aeroccino frother) // Acrylic & Brass Tray // Tatte Bakery Biscotti

WHAT TO DO

Honestly, the real secret here is the high quality cocoa flakes and the milk frother. I personally love my Nespresso Aeroccino but there are other frothers on the market making it just as easy (see the rumored-to-be-awesome Breville above). Fill the frother to the recommended line with milk, turn it on & let it heat the milk. It takes less than a minute and creates a rich, amazing foamy drink you will LOVE. Just as the frother is finishing foing what it does best (the milk will swell and the mixing will appear to slow down), toss in a tablespoon of Williams-Sonoma Hot Cocoa Mix (my tip: choose CLASSIC formula). Let it mix just long enough for the flakes to melt.

The rest is easy.... Simply pour into a pretty mug of your choice. Garnish with a pinch of cocoa flakes for extra rich topping.

Repeat the process for as many mugs as you have guests. Place these rich, chocolatey creations on a tray, pair with biscotti (a personal weakness) & serve with a smile!   

Bonus points: If you are of the Eddie Ross, Danielle Rollins variety and never met a creative task you didn't want to take to a new fabulous level... look no further than these adorable gingerbread house mug toppers. Yes, this festive creation is edible and will be the center of much pinterest-worthy love. These are so, so cute. Be forewarned: these baked creations are sold individually. For a more efficient (read: less pricey) option, consider baking up some gingerbread cookies instead. If you're throwing a holiday fete and want to go the extra mile to make your guests feel festive, don your best reindeer ear headband, put on your sparkly holiday sweater & bust these out on your glamorous mug of hot cocoa. Instant Polaroid moment.  

Recipes: Why You Need Chimichurri In Your Life...

For some reason this simple sauce has become a full on flavorful obsession for me. We enjoy our grass-fed steaks and burgers here and I'm always trying to jazz mine up with zesty toppings. Whole Foods makes a ridiculously good pico de gallo which I use as often as I can. But how can you take your meal further? How can you take steak and burgers to the next level? I'm telling you - the secret is in the sauce. 

Chimichurri is surprisingly simple and fast to make. Don't mess around with other methods: you need a small food processor and little else. Simply Recipes offers this straightforward recipe that has helped me refine my ingredient ratios for more consistent success. Leave yours chunky or smooth it out - it's entirely up to you. What you'll discover is that this verdant topping makes your flavors sing and will entice you to fire up the grill as often as possible. Trust me on this!  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

HOW-TO

  1. Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
  2. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.

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CHEF'S TOOLS


Wondering about that grass-fed beef? We purchase ours either at Whole Foods or from a Texas farm. This easy bit of knowledge might give you reasons to consider going grass-fed yourself. I hope you'll try the chimichurri. I know you'll love it! 

Recipes: Tangy, Crunchy & Oh, So Good Korean Tacos...

The weather is warming up and, well, it's time to move the cooking and the dining outdoors for the season. If Dallas does one thing really well it's tacos of every variety. I discovered this recipe over on Half-Baked Harvest and can't wait to give ti a try. It does not look particularly healthy, but the photos speak for themselves! I'd have to skip the queso fresco due to my cheese allergy, but aside from that, this is exactly what I'm craving right now. Spicy, tangy, colorful and packed with texture & crunch. 

CHEF'S TOOLS


Ingredients

  • Korean Fried Chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons gojujang (Korean chile paste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 pound cooked chow mein noodles or other thick asian noodles
  • Sweet Crunchy Asian Slaw
  • 3 cups mixed red and green cabbage
  • 2 carrots, sliced into match sticks
  • 2 red chiles, seeded + sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • black pepper, to taste
  • Topping
  • 4-8 warmed corn or flour tortillas or hard shell tacos
  • queso fresco
  • fresh cilantro
  • sesame seeds
  • picked ginger

Instructions

To make the slaw

In a medium bowl mix together the cabbage, carrots, red chilies, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice, sesame seeds and black pepper. Toss well to combine and place in the fridge until ready to use, but no longer than a few hours or the cabbage will get soggy.

Make the Chicken

In a large bowl mix together minced or grated garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, jojujang, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey. Set aside.

Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy bottom high sided skillet or pot to 350 degrees F.

Add the cooked noodles in 2 or 3 batches to the hot oil and fry until golden, 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towel and then break into pieces. Set aside.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup water in another bowl. Add chicken chunks and toss. Working in batches, fry chicken until golden, 6–8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Return oil to 350 degrees F. Fry chicken a second time until crisp, 6–8 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Add the chicken to the bowl with the sauce and toss well.

To Assemble

Divide the chicken among the warmed taco shells. Top with sesame seeds and slaw. If desired: add the crunchy noodles, cilantro and queso fresco. 

*Recipe via Half-Baked Harvest

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Recipes: Traditional Sugar Cookies...

My oldest daughter and I love to make holiday cookies right before Christmas. While we try our best to make the enviable photo-worthy roll & cutout variety we inevitably decide that classic rounds with sprinkles are every but as tasty! 

Our recipe is simple (as it should be), but don't be shy about just grabbing a mix from the store. After all, the gift is in the baking and bonding experience. Crispy and slightly overdone or a smidge underdone, the point is to stop and create a memory with a child, a sister, a mom, an aunt or a friend. Don't be afraid to roll your sleeves up and get a bit messy. Love isn't always neat and tidy after all. 

Classic Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened

  • 2 cups white sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • cookie cutters (tip: simple shapes offer greatest chance for success!)

  • colorful sugar sprinkles of your choice

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into Christmas-y shapes using cookie cutters. We love trees, simple snowflakes and stars the best. Add sprinkles as desired (we tend to go a bit overboard!) in festive gold, red and green. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. Voila!

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 8 minutes.

We love these bagged & packaged as sweet gifts for family and friends. Bonus points if your children write on the gift tags themselves, as it adds to the spirit of giving. Merry Christmas to you all! xoxo

Recipes: Protein-Rich Gingerbread Tiramisu + Chocolate Ganache...

Hello, guilt-free recipe! ALOHA (my favorite purveyor of all-things-healthy) has a fairly impressive collection of yummy recipes. This one keeps grabbing my attention, as I am a huge Tiramisu fan. Longtime readers will note that I don't tend to be drawn to sugary foods in general. However, when it comes to this specific Italian espresso-laced dessert I do have a difficult time saying no on one stipulation: it must be made with top quality ingredients. 

ALOHA's version passes my sweet snobbery test and kicks it up a notch by ramping up the protein content and turning this traditional treat into a festive affair by way of zesty gingerbread. Win-win-yummified win!

Ready for the low down on making this fanciful (and fabulous looking, if those Pinterest-worthy pix are to be believed) recipe? Here goes... 

Ingredients

Gingerbread


2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup white whole-wheat flour

1 packet ALOHA Premium Protein Vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup eggnog or canned coconut milk

Ginger Coffee Syrup

2 cups black coffee

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons Kahlua
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

Tiramisu 

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons ALOHA Premium Protein Vanilla

2 tablespoons Kahlua

1 cup heavy cream, divided

4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate

1/2 cup canned coconut milk or heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch square or round cake pan with coconut oil or cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and coat once more in cooking spray.

Add coconut oil and brown sugar to a bowl. Beat on high with a hand or stand mixer until smooth. Mix in the egg, molasses and vanilla; continue to mix on high until light and fluffy.

Add in whole-wheat flour, vanilla protein powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.


Pour in the eggnog or coconut milk. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated and mixture is smooth.

Pour cake batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is slightly crackled.  

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine the coffee, brown sugar and ginger. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the syrup is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the Kahlua.

Once the cake is cooled slightly, poke holes all over using a fork. Drizzle the coffee syrup over the cake. I only used about 2/3 of the coffee syrup. Use a little or as much as you’d like. Allow the cake to sit at least 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.


To assemble the tiramisu, combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla protein powder, kahlua and vanilla in a large bowl, beat with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about one minute.

Add the heavy cream to a separate bowl and beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, set aside.

To make the ganache, in a microwave safe bowl add the chocolate and coconut milk (or heavy cream). Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring between each until melted. Once melted stir in the vanilla extract.

To assemble add a layer of crumbled gingerbread to the bottom of your serving glasses. Spread a layer of the mascarpone mixture over the gingerbread and then a layer of the ganache. Sprinkle on some chopped chocolate if desired. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used (I got three layers for an 8 ounce glass). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Garnish each individual tiramisu with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and a gingerbread cookie if desired. Serve!

{Recipe credit goes to Half-Baked Harvest. For this and other amazing healthy lifestyle ideas, visit ALOHA.}