Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recipes | Oatmeal Cookies + Hot Chocolate

If one of your New Year's resolutions was to eliminate sweets, my sincere apologies, best you forget this post ever happened. :) I've spent the last month attempting to perfect recipes for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and homemade hot chocolate {an entirely different beverage than hot cocoa}. Why? Uh, no reason other than to squelch my ongoing and unrelenting chocolate cravings.  I narrowed the cookie recipes down to two favorites: a Martha recipe and my Mum's.  I enlisted a panel of willing taste testers and the winning cookie went to my Mum's recipe. But it was a close vote.  {the deciding voter was the illustrious Matt McClish.  An avid Food TV Network watcher and expert baked goods consumer that happens to be married to one of my best friends and {JOKINGLY} asked for a blog shout out, so he's getting one!}

My Mum's recipe is a bit more complex in flavor and texture.  It is amazing with raisins in place of, or in addition to, the chocolate chips. And walnuts or dried cranberries would also be perfect add-ins.

Mum's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 c old fashioned oats
1 3/4 c flour
1 TBS cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt {1/2 tsp table salt}
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c butter at room temp
1 cup brown sugar {light or dark}
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. mix dry ingredients
2. beat butter and sugars till smooth, beat in egg and vanilla
3. mix in dry ingredients, stir in chocolate chips
Bake until lightly golden about 12 minutes {don't over cook or they will be dry}

As for the other chocolate recipe... several weeks ago we ran out of cocoa powder, so I googled recipes for hot chocolate and came across this one.   I posted a pic on Instagram with the caption  "I never tasted anything quite so divine in a mug."  I will never make hot cocoa again.  Never. This has become the after-swim-practice beverage of choice for Andrew.  It's so good, I'd even serve it as a dessert for guests!.  I've had it so often since that I've made a few tweaks that make it even better than the original recipe. Dare I say that?!

Foley House Hot Chocolate
2 cups milk {I like 2% best, but any will work}
2 oz milk chocolate, chopped
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 TBS granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a small pinch of cinnamon {1/8 tsp or so}
a small pinch of sea salt
Garnishes: whipping cream, chocolate shavings, very finely shaved hazelnuts
{makes 4-6 servings depending on how much the milk is frothed}
Warm 2 cups milk in a small sauce pan, over med low heat, until just simmering.
Remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, sea salt, and chocolate.
Whisk until melted.
Return to stove, over low heat, use frothing wand for a couple minutes.
You can buy one at Ikea for a few dollars.  If you don't have one, it will still be amazing, no worries.  Frothing the hot chocolate makes it lighter and creamier at the same time.  It helps the chocolate to be completely incorporated so there is none left at the bottom of the mug when you finish.  Ladle into cups and top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and hazel nut shavings if you like.

It's ridiculously good.  When I told Andrew I was sharing the recipe on the blog he begged me not to because he said I should keep the recipe to myself and open the world's best hot chocolate stand."  Very cute.  A tip, the better quality the chocolate, the better the drink will be.  When I'm in a hurry I use Ghiradelli milk and bittersweet chocolate chips and they work great.  I like to think my short stint during college as a bookstore, coffee shop barista helped me in perfecting this recipe.  Ha ha!  Maybe it's just my love/obsession with chocolate. Enjoy every last sip {and spoonful}!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year | Live Simply + Eat Well

Christmas ended and no sooner were we blasted with freezing weather bringing the first kiss of wintry snow.  I piled blankets on top of down comforters, added chapstick to backpacks and coat pockets, we went ice skating {a first for Charlie}, and made snowmen and now angels.  

The snow was a bit too short lived and has long melted away.  This afternoon Charlie and his friends stomped in massive mud puddles at the park without a jacket.  Crazy climate.  I hope 2013 has gotten off to a happy start for you!  I've read so many posts on new year's resolutions, theme words for the year, reflections on life, etc.  All very beautiful and all very inspiring.  And while I love the idea of ushering in a clean slate each January, I tend not to be big at making resolutions.  For the last year or so, I've felt a real and genuine tug to live more simply. To be more conscientious of how we spend our time, our money and our energy.  To be more present and attentive to one another, to be a bit less connected to the virtual world and all it's addictive time zapping attractions, and to make life special in simple ways for the people I love the most.  Sometimes I fall short {whining and ungrateful behavior can make steam come out my ears} but there are a couple things that I think I do relatively well , one is cooking and the other is reading to my boys.  Mealtime and bedtime are two of my favorite times of the day. When they are grown they'll probably say their mother was always in the kitchen {and her closet and car were a disaster} and she read me the best stories.  I know meal planning and cooking are on many resolution lists this year.

I do a weekly meal plan and this time of year I ALWAYS have soup worked somewhere into the week.  It's easy, makes enough for left overs, and it is so comforting.  I grew up eating potato leek soup.  When Jimmy and I were dating he'd often come over for dinner, the first time he ate my Mum's potato leek soup he was forever changed.  He LOVED it.  It was one of the first requests he ever had for soup when we got married and I've been making my Mum's recipe ever since.  He prefers his soup on the thick consistency side, but you can thin it with more broth if you prefer.  It will not alter the taste.  Hope you enjoy it just as much! Here's to a new year, to living simply and eating well!

Potato Leek Soup
4-5 leeks, chopped, white and light green parts only
8-9 potatoes {I use red}, peeled and quartered
1 small onion, diced
1 TBS butter
8 cups chicken stock
salt + pepper
cream and parsley to serve

Melt butter in stock pot or dutch oven. Add onion, leeks and potatoes and saute for 5 min.
Add chicken stock, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes.
Strain veggies and RESERVE LIQUID!
Put veggies and 2 cups soup back in stock pot and puree. Stir in reserved broth till desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladled into soup bowl, swirl with a little cream and top with parsley.
I toasted some baguette croutons in olive oil and salt/pepper to add to mine when I had it for left overs the next day.  So good.