Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

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When shopping recently, I found these Snowman Marshmallows and could’t wait to make a special hot chocolate to go with them. For this recipe I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Candy Canes and Peeps Marshmallows. “Hmmm, yum!” My company and I enjoyed our hot chocolate and cookies.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Makes 3 servings

4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

1/4 c. candy cane pieces (about 3 candy canes broken into pieces)

12 oz. boiling water

4 oz. half and half

whipped cream for garnish

shaved chocolate for garnish

whole candy canes for garnish

marshmallows for garnish, optional

Place chocolate and candy cane pieces in a small non-stick pan. Pour boiling water over chocolate and candy canes. Stir. Turn low heat on under pan. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in half-and-half and continue to heat mixture until hot, but not boiling. Meanwhile,  assemble ingredients for garnishing. Carefully ladle into serving cups and garnish. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Related Recipes:

Chocolat Chaud Recipe

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Have a great day!

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

When baking an assortment of cookies for the holidays, it is nice to have both a variety of shapes and of flavors. Mexican Wedding Cookies are small, buttery, nut cookies, rolled in sugar that provide a contrast to drop cookies and to cut-out cookies in shape and provide contrast to chocolatey and to fruity cookies in flavor. This version, with spices mixed into the rolling sugar is both flavorful and aromatic. I made this batch last night and loved the way that they made the kitchen smell. Added bonuses are that these cookies are easy to make keep well for gift-giving. Enjoy!
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Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes about 32

Mexican Wedding Cookies – also known as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Tea Cakes, Snowball Cookies, and Butter Balls, and probably a dozen other names – are a traditional Christmas cookie  in the United States. They are buttery cookies made with ground nuts, baked, and then rolled in confectioner’s sugar. In this version, aromatic cinnamon and cloves are added to the sugar.

• 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

• 2 T. confectioner’s sugar + 1/2 c. extra for rolling cookies

• 1 t. vanilla extract, or almond extract (if using almonds), or hazelnut extract (if using hazelnuts)*

• 1 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, very finely chopped or pulsed in the food processor to the texture of coarse kosher salt

• 1 t. ground Vietnamese cinnamon

• 1/4 t. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 T. of the confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla extract. On lowest speed, beat in flour and then nuts. The mixture will be very crumbly.
  3. Spoon a small about (about 1 heaping teaspoon) of mixture into one of your palms. Squeeze lightly until the mixture holds together then shape into a ball. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, spacing the balls well apart on the 2 baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. The tops of the cookies will be very pale. Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.
  5. Once cool, whisk the spices into the remaining 1/2 c. of confectioner’s sugar. Roll the cookies in confectioner’s sugar mixture until well coated. Once you have rolled all of the cookies once, roll them in the mixture again until you have used all of it. To avoid getting finger prints in the cookies, transfer cookies to a serving plate or a storage container using a fork to lift them.

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

North Pole Cupcakes

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These festive, chocolatey-peppermint, cheesecake cupcakes are easy to make with a food processor and can be made ahead of time and frozen so that you have them on hand for holiday company or surprise visitors – that is, unless a certain someone in your house likes to sneak into the freezer and eat them as is. You might need to make extras!  Enjoy!

North Pole Cupcakes

An easy to make, festive treat for the winter holiday season!

makes 12

Ingredients

• 12 Mint Oreo cookies (or gluten-free sandwich-style cookies)

• 2/3 c. granulated white sugar

• 16 miniature peppermint candy canes, divided

• 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

• 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1/4 c. sour cream

• 2 lg. eggs

• 1 T. chocolate liqueur

• 1/2 t. mint extract

• whipped cream for topping (canned is ok)

• shaved chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, sugar pearls, or sugar sprinkles for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers. Place one cookie in the center of each muffin paper.  (The cookies will be a little smaller than the bottom of the muffin cups, but the cookies puff out during baking.)

2. Unwrap 4 of the candy canes and break candy into small pieces (should be about 1 T.). Using a large food processor, process sugar and broken candy canes until they are crushed to a fine consistency. Add chocolate chips and process until the chips are finely crushed. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add sour cream and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add eggs, chocolate liqueur, and mint extract. Process or beat until well blended and perfectly smooth. Scrape down bowl.

3. Divide cheesecake batter between muffin cups, filling to the top, but not over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheesecake batter is puffy and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. (The cupcakes will sink in the middle as they cool and don’t look very pretty until garnished.)

4. Once completely cool, cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. (Once cooled, muffins can be removed from the baking pan, placed in a plastic container, covered tightly, and frozen until shortly before serving. If no one sneaks into the freezer to eat them, cupcakes should keep for about 1 month.)

5. Serve cold. (If frozen, remove cupcakes from freezer shortly before serving – about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, remove muffin papers. Garnish each cupcake with whipped cream, shaved chocolate or other decorations, and an unwrapped candy cane. Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Variation: Instead of whipped cream, top with chocolate ganache or chocolate buttercream flavored with peppermint.

Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

The combination of chopped onions, celery and carrots, sautéed in olive oil (to make what Italians call soffritto) or in butter (to make what the French call mirepoix) is wonderful for adding flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffings. Around the holidays, I keep soffrito or mirepoix in the refrigerator so that I have the aromatic vegetables already prepared to make holiday cooking easier.

I generally use about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil per cup of raw vegetables, adding a dash of salt and pepper. To the onions, I also add a splash of dry white wine. For this minestrone, I prefer olive oil to butter, but either will work. If you have soffritto already made, you can substitute 3 cups of it for the vegetables in this soup and reduce the olive oil to 1 to 2 tablespoons.

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Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

This is a delicious, stew-like minestrone … flavorful and filling for the winter months. If you prefer a more brothy soup, you can thin this with a little vegetable or chicken stock.

Ingredients

• about 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 c. diced onions

• 1 c. diced celery

• 1 c. diced carrots

• 1/3 c. dry white or red wine

• 2 28-oz. cans diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes – or 1 can diced, 1 can crushed (do not drain)

• 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans (white kidney beans) or great northern beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 T. dried oregano, crushed

• 1 T. paprika or smoked paprika

• 1 t. dried thyme, crushed

• 1/2 t. sea salt

• fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, optional garnish

Directions

(1) If you do not have soffritto already prepared, start by sautéing vegetables in olive oil, one type at a time, using about 1  – 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper, per cup of vegetables. I like to add a splash of dry white wine to the onions. Cook briefly until crisp-tender.

(2) Add prepared vegetables, wine, about 1 T. of the remaining olive oil, tomatoes, beans, and spices to a large pot (6-8 qt). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the minestrone comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a low simmer, continuing to stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes. (So that the vegetables remain crisp-tender, don’t overcook.) Taste.  Add more olive oil, wine, or seasonings if desired. Ladle into warm bowls to serve.

Serving suggestion: At the table, grate a little cheese over each bowl of minestrone – but not for vegans. Serve with warm bread and a glass of wine.

And Now for a Change of Decorations

We had a very pleasant Thanksgiving at The Morning Star with good friends and delightful guests; and, of course, we had lots of delicious food. I hope that everyone else had a lovely day as well.

Now it is time to pack away the Thanksgiving decorations …

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… and start thinking about Christmas. We have several tubs worth of lights to string on the porch.

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I’m glad that’s not my job!

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Changing out the throw pillows is much easier to handle … but don’t think that I’ll be getting off easy! Anyhow, I think that’s enough Christmas decorating for today. After all, it has been a busy week. There is certainly a lot more holiday decorating to do and there will be more pictures to share.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Bordeaux Cranberry Compote

For as long as I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I have been using the same delicious Cranberry Compote recipe. Obviously, I really, really like the recipe, otherwise I wouldn’t keeping making it. But I recently came across a recipe for Cabernet Cranberry and Blueberry Sauce from Avery Cooks that inspired me to make a few simple changes to my old standby … just to try something new.  So, I substituted a Bordeaux for the water in my recipe and blueberries for one cup of the cranberries, and made a few minor changes. As I expected, the compote was different, but still delicious. The wine and blueberries added nice, but subtle, background flavor and created a darker colored compote. (For a more pronounced wine flavor, one could cut back some on the spices or on the cranberries which are both still pretty prominent flavors.) This dish is fairly chunky and I like to add fresh fruit right before serving because its crisp texture and flavor provide a pleasing contrast when paired with the sweet and tangy cranberry mixture.

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Ingredients

1 c. granulated white sugar

1/2 c. red Bordeaux wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot or similar wine)

6 whole cloves

3 whole allspice

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 t. ground mace

1/2 c. dried cranberries

2 T. dried blueberries

1 c. frozen blueberries

2. c fresh cranberries (washed and picked over)

1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts

zest from 1 fragrant orange

Optional, 1 1/2 c. chopped fresh apples, pears and/or oranges.

Directions

1. Combine sugar, wine and spices in a 2-quart non-stick pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, then remove cloves, allspice and cinnamon. (Count to make sure that you have all of them.)

2. Stir dried fruits into wine mixture. Allow dried fruits to simmer for about 5 minutes, then stir in frozen blueberries. When the mixture returns to a simmer, stir in fresh cranberries.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped. Stir in walnuts and orange zest, then remove from heat.

3. Chill in a clean glass jar until serving. If desired, toss cranberry mixture with fresh apple, pear and/or orange chunks first right before serving.

Have fun getting ready for the holidays! I hope that you enjoy the recipe!

View my previous Thanksgiving-related posts:

Blood and Sand Cocktails

Black Tea Sangria (Mocktail)

Chanterelle Risotto with Truffle Butter

Little Apple Manhattan Cocktails

Chocolate Bourbon Pots de Creme with Orange Bourbon Cherries

Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations

Preparing for Thanksgiving (Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes and the Original Cranberry Compote)

Young Bakers & Chocolate Mint Crinkle Cookies Recipe

It was cold and dreary here today, so my friend Sara and her daughters came over to bake cookies. What a perfect afternoon to have the oven on … and the girls did a great job!

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Chocolate Mint Crinkles

Makes about 58 cookies

Chocolaty sugar cookies with Andes’ Mints.

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. Dutch process cocoa

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/3 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 c. granulated white sugar

1 lg. egg

2 t. bourbon or 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 1/4 c. finely chopped Andes’ mints or Andes’ creme de menthe baking chips

2/3 c. sparkling decorator’s sugars*

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then bourbon or vanilla extract. On lowest mixer speed, beat in dry ingredients and then mints.
  4. Scoop a rounded teaspoonful of dough, roll into a ball, roll in decorator’s sugar to completely coat and then place on baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls of dough at least 2” apart. When the first baking sheet is filled, bake cookies for about 14 to 16 minutes or until just barely set. Meanwhile, finish rolling the remaining dough.
  5. As baking sheets come out of the oven, place them on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.

* Sparkling sugars are available through baking specialty companies such as King Arthur Flour and Wilton. For this recipe, I use white, green or gold sugar, depending on the occasion.

Happy Baking! Have a great weekend!

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