Beverages

Recipe—Creamy Hot Cocoa in a Crock-Pot

Over the weekend we had a holiday cookie decorating party for my son and his little buddies from school. It was wonderful! All the kiddos huddled around the table eating the cookie toppings quicker than they were putting them on the actual frosted cookies getting all hopped up on sugar. I love this time of year!

I wanted to have a little hot cocoa bar where all the kids (and grown ups) could make themselves a fancy cup of cocoa. I’m not talking little envelopes of dry god knows what. I’m talking thick and creamy REAL hot cocoa. The kind that fills you up and warms your belly, the kind that leaves a thick creamy mustache on your upper lip with every sip. I made this a couple of hours before the party and it was perfect! Along with a big crock pot full of pure joy I had bowls of marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, crushed candy canes, chocolate sprinkles, whip cream, and then of course some grown up mixers (Kahlua, Disaronno, Baily’s, Frangelico, and peppermint schnapps). Hey if you know me, you know I don’t half ass anything. 😉

This hot cocoa was by far the best I ever had! If you are having a few people and want to make something very special this holiday season then I recommend you make this hot cocoa. It will take every grown up back to their childhood days and will be memorable for all the kiddos.

Note: Makes 8–12 servings.

INGREDIENTS
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz bag chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white chocolate will all work)
2 c heavy whipping cream
6 c milk (2% or whole)
1 tsp vanilla

STEPS

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large crock-pot.
  • Turn on low.
  • Cook for 2 hours stirring occasionally using a whisk.
  • Ladle into a mug, add in your mixer (optional), and top with your favorite treats or leave as is.
Sweet Treats

‘Tis the Season for Baking

It’s the first week of December and I am going into the baking season full steam ahead! If you are looking for some cookie or bar recipes that are outside the norm then you have come to the right place! Here are some of my favorite sweet treat recipes that are sure to be a hit with your lucky recipients. Enjoy!

Holiday Sweet Treats

  1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
  2. Banana Toffee Cookies
  3. Chocolate Crackle Cookies
  4. Peanut Butter Cookies
  5. Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
  6. Craisin White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
  7. Sugar Cookie Bars
  8. Chunky Monkey Cookies
  9. Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
  10. Lemon Crackle Cookies
  11. Oreo Truffles
  12. Confetti Cake Batter Cookies
Dinners

Recipe—The Perfect Turkey

To brine or not to brine? That is the ongoing question I have people ask me about cooking a turkey. Well here is your answer, I am a briner. I have prepared turkeys both brined and not. While I am no professional chef I would consider my self very versed in eating. I personally think brined turkeys come out with more flavor and are more moist than that of a turkey that is not brined. Some of you may be asking, “what the heck is brining?”

Brining is the process of soaking your turkey in a salt (and sometimes herb) infused bath for several hours prior to cooking. I find that your bird will be more evenly flavored and it will also be the moistest bird you ever have.

I make an awesome citrus herb rub (see recipe below) for my turkey. It is flavor packed and will make all your dinner guests ohhhh and ahhhh. The orange zest is not overpowering at all. It actually is a really nice complement to all the other flavors of a thanksgiving dinner. Trust me. I know how to make a delicious turkey.

Notes: Do not brine your turkey if it is self basting, pre seasoned, or kosher. If you do not have a pan that is large enough you may use an oversized bowl, ice chest, or even a baking bag tied off. The key is that the bird is completely submerged.

BRINING INGREDIENTS
1 c kosher salt
2 c sugar
1 c apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sage
2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp pepper
thawed turkey

STEPS FOR BRINING

  • Find a large pot that will hold your turkey making sure you have at least an inch or two of room at the top.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in your pot.
  • Add the salt and sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
  • Remove the pan from heat and add in 8 cups of cold water, apple cider vinegar, sage, thyme, rosemary, and pepper.
  • Place the pot in your sink (this will help in case any liquid overflows).
  • Remove all of the giblets and neck from your turkey and gently lower it into the pot.
  • Cover the pot with a lid or saran wrap.
  • Place the pot in the fridge and marinade for 12–16 hours.
  • Rinse the turkey and pat dry.

TURKEY INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 c Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp chili powder
2 oranges, zested and quartered
1 c butter, softened
1 brined turkey

STEPS FOR TURKEY

  • Preheat oven to 325º.
  • In a small bowl combine the garlic, parsley, kosher salt, pepper, chili powder, orange zest, and butter and mix until well combined.
  • Starting from the neck of the turkey, carefully separate the skin from the breast meat with your fingers.
  • Push about half of the herbed butter mixture under the skin and spread it out evenly. (Don’t be afraid really get it all over in there! The butter will melt and all those yummy flavors will just seep into the meat.)
  • Use the other half of the mixture to evenly cover the top and sides of the turkey.
  • Place the orange quarters inside the turkey’s cavity.
  • Place the seasoned turkey in a roasting pan and loosely cover with foil.
  • Roast the turkey for 20–23 minutes per pound and baste every 45 minutes. (Note: If you are running out of juices in the pan just add some chicken broth or cubes of butter.)
  • Remove the foil for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
  • When the temperature in the meatiest part of the turkey reaches 165º remove it from oven and allow it to rest for 25–30 minutes.
  • Carve and gobble up.

 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Homemade Marshmallows

I was trying to come up with a cute idea for a Christmas gift for my son’s teachers and came up with the idea of making hot cocoa gift baskets. You know, a mug, some hot cocoa, some homemade cookies, and marshmallows. Well I am never the person to take the easy way out by just buying an actual bag of jet puffed marshmallows at the store, I wanted these gift baskets to be special, made from the heart. So I decided to attempt to make my very own marshmallows. Gourmet marshmallows seem to be all the rage this season but unfortunately they can cost a fortune. With this recipe you can make your own at home. They are a little bit of work, and one might by intimidated, but they are actually easy. I think the hardest part was waiting for them to set! These homemade marshmallows put store bought marshmallows to shame and are so totally worth making on your own. If making your own marshmallows isn’t on your bucket list it should be. Give these a shot. They will take your hot cocoa on a cold winter night over the top!

Note: The original recipe I followed called for using a stand up mixer but I used a hand mixer. You can use either. The marshmallows can be very sticky and difficult to handle so the trick to cutting them is to constantly coat them in powdered sugar after every slice of the knife.

INGREDIENTS
3 c sugar
1 1/4 c light corn syrup
water
4 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 c powdered sugar

STEPS

  • Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • While sugar water is heating up add 3/4 cup water to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the 4 packs of gelatin over the top. Set aside.
  • Bring the sugar water mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 235º.
  • Carefully pour the hot sugar water into your mixing bowl with the water and gelatin and mix on low.
  • Add the salt and increase mixer speed to high.
  • Beat the sugar mixture on high for 5 minutes and than add vanilla.
  • Continue beating the mixture for another 5 minutes.
  • When you are done, pour the marshmallow cream into a greased 9” x 13” pan.
  • Smooth the top and gently tap to release air.
  • Leave the dish on the counter for at least 10 hours.
  • After the waiting is up sprinkle the entire top of your marshmallows with powdered sugar making sure it’s coated and place a cutting board over the top of your dish.
  • While holding the cutting board and dish together carefully flip the dish and cutting board upside down simultaneously releasing the marshmallows onto the cutting board. (Your set marshmallows will now be upside down on the cutting board.)
  • Lift the baking dish and sprinkle all of the exposed marshmallow with powdered sugar making sure there are no exposed areas.
  • Using a large sharp knife cut into 1” strips and coat each exposed side with powdered sugar.
  • Cut those strips into 1” cubes making sure you coat each cut side with powdered sugar.
  • Once done, sprinkle all of the marshmallows with the remaining powdered sugar making sure there are no exposed sticky areas.
  • Enjoy in a big mug of hot cocoa!
Sweet Treats

Recipe—Confetti Cake Batter Cookies

Awhile back I posted a recipe for lemon crackle cookies. It was a cookie recipe that is primarily made from a box of cake mix. I love the concept of taking cake batter and sprucing it up with a few extra ingredients to make one heck of a fabulous cookie These types of cookies always come out really light and super moist and best of all they are quick and easy to make. Well ‘tis the season for complete chaos and busy schedules so what better time to share a recipe for super quick and scrumptious confetti cake batter cookies. I used red and green sprinkles to make them festive for Christmas but keep this recipe in mind throughout the year. Just change the sprinkle color for the appropriate holiday. Perhaps pink and red for Valentine’s Day?

INGREDIENTS
1-18.25 oz box of white cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2–3/4 c sprinkles

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a large bowl mix together the dry cake mix and baking powder.
  • Whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla.
  • Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir until all ingredients are combined.
  • Fold in the sprinkles but be sure not to over mix or the dye will stain the batter.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it.
  • Drop 1” balls of dough onto the baking sheet leaving approximately 2” apart.
  • Bakes cookies for 9–10 minutes making sure they don’t brown.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for about 3 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a cutting board or cooling rack.