330: Mocha Hot Cocoa (BHG)

I decided to make the Mocha Hot Cocoa recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, but I originally left the coffee out of it so that Alex could enjoy it. I also planned on sending individual packets of homemade cocoa mix to my family for Christmas, and I decided it would be nicer for them to get mocha cocoa than plain old hot cocoa mix.

For the first batch I made a third of the recipe but left out the instant coffee. The second time I made it, I made the full recipe, including instant coffee. Both times I blended the ingredients (except chocolate chips) together in a blender, rather than mix them together by hand, because I feel like the mix dissolves better that way.

This was pretty decent, both with and without coffee. I forgot to add the chocolate chips to a cup I made of the regular cocoa batch, and it didn’t have the same satisfying mouthfeel without them. The cocoa is very drinkable and not too sweet, although the sweetness and richness of it could vary if you used richer or sweeter chocolate chips (I used generic ones). I’d make this cocoa again, as long as I remember to put chocolate chips in it.

325: Hot Chocolate (Food Network)

It’s cold outside, and since it’s after Thanksgiving, I finally have a Christmas tree in my house. That means there’s nothing better for an evening than to light a candle, make hot cocoa, and sit in front of the tree (while blogging about hot chocolate, of course).

I’ve tried a few different recipes for hot cocoa and hot chocolate made from actual milk (as opposed to a powdered mix, which I also make sometimes). This time I decided to try the Ellie Krieger Hot Chocolate recipe from Food Network. How does this compare to the Hot Cocoa recipe I made at the beginning of November? This one took a full cup of milk, 2 teaspoons each cocoa powder, sugar, and water, and a tiny amount of vanilla extract. The other Hot Cocoa recipe took 3/4 cup milk, a full tablespoon each of cocoa powder, sugar, and milk or cream, and no vanilla.

So, tonight’s recipe has more milk, less cocoa and sugar, and a little vanilla. And a cinnamon stick. I heated 1% milk on the stove with a cinnamon stick. While I waited for it to begin to bubble around the edges, I mixed together the cocoa powder, sugar, and water in a mug. I poured the hot milk over the chocolate slurry, stirred well, and added a quarter teaspoon of vanilla.

Hot Chocolate (Food Network)

This was fine. This is a good everyday cup of hot chocolate, since it doesn’t have too much extra sugar. I liked the amount of sweetness in this mug of chocolate. It’s a good cup of cocoa to have if you don’t want your cocoa too chocolatey. I liked the depth the vanilla extract gave it. The hint of cinnamon was subtle, and I’m not sure if I’d go through the trouble of using a cinnamon stick next time. This was an unobtrusive cup of hot chocolate, but for a real chocolate fix I’d try doubling or perhaps even tripling the amount of cocoa powder in it.

312: Hot Cocoa Mix

I like making my own hot cocoa mix. I haven’t done the math on it, but I generally assume that it’s less expensive to make my own, given the quantities of it I drink during the year. I also like that I can control what goes into it if I make the mix myself. I have one box of flavored cocoa mix here, and the first two ingredients on it are sugar and corn syrup solids. While I don’t always mind having sugar, I’d rather not have corn syrup solids, which are primarily used to mimic the mouthfeel of milk or cream. They’re really just more sugars anyway, and I’d rather have the fat that might accompany powdered milk. Corn syrup solids are also a primary ingredient in non-dairy creamer, which I don’t particularly like the taste of. And honestly, at least milk has a little nutritional value.

I’ve had trouble finding hot cocoa mix recipes that I want to make because so many of them call for non-dairy creamer to make sure that they’re creamy. I do have one recipe that I make (a hot cocoa mix recipe by Alton Brown), and I like it a lot, but I would like to and am willing to try other recipes in case there’s a better one out there somewhere.

I got an email from Johnson and Johnson that had a recipe for Hot Cocoa Mix in it. The idea was that you make the mix and give it as a gift. Gifting food is something that I would love to do in the future, but this recipe was exciting because it called for non-fat powdered milk. This is only the second hot cocoa mix recipe I’ve ever found that uses only powdered milk!

I decided I had to try it. The recipe made four servings, so I halved it so that Alex and I could each have a cup, with no leftovers. The recipe also said that you would boil water on the stove and add the mix to the pan. Quite honestly, the appeal of hot cocoa mix for me is that you don’t mess up a pan; rather, you add hot water to your mug of mix. If I’m going to mix something on the stove, I might as well make hot cocoa with real milk. So, I decided to test it like how I would actually make it – by boiling water and adding it to the mix in a mug.

I blended together the sugar, powdered milk, and cocoa. I added about 4 teaspoons worth (a little more than a tablespoon) of chocolate chips to each mug and split the mix between it. I added 3/4 cup of boiling water to each mug, mixed, and topped with marshmallows.

I was skeptical about how this would turn out, but it was actually rather nice. It mixes up well if you put it in individual mugs and then add boiling/steaming water. You just have to be sure to mix well to mix in the chocolate chips at the bottom.

The combination of cocoa and chocolate chips means that the hot cocoa has a great chocolate flavor; the cocoa powder blends in easily while the chocolate chips give the hot cocoa a smooth texture. This seemed incredibly sweet to me. I think it was the combination of sugar plus sugar in the chocolate chips plus sugar from the marshmallows. If I were to make this again for me, I’d cut back on the sugar (and potentially the marshmallows). I think I’ll still make my usual hot cocoa mix, but the addition of chocolate chips to this made it a nice change, and I might use the chocolate chips in other mixes as well.

298: Hot Cocoa (Joy of Baking)

Another cold night, another Hot Cocoa recipe. I chose this particular recipe tonight because it was a single serving, and I was only making it for myself.

Very simple recipe, really. Heat milk on the stove. Meanwhile, combine sugar, dutched cocoa powder, and cream or milk in a mug. Add hot milk to mug and stir until blended. Add marshmallows or whipped cream. I used a blend of Dutched and regular cocoa (specifically, I ordered Saco cocoa a while ago, when I got it for a bit cheaper). I heated 2% milk on the stove, and mixed heavy cream with the cocoa and sugar. I topped with marshmallows.

I actually made this again later in the week to try it with Splenda rather than sugar, and milk in place of cream.

Hot Cocoa (Joy of Baking)

This was tasty enough. It had a smooth texture. In general, I think I prefer a stronger/darker cocoa flavor, but this was a nice balance of sweet and chocolate. Using milk instead of cream was fine, but the Splenda (and other artificial sweeteners) lacked the substance that the sugar gave to hot cocoa. I expected to say that this needed a little vanilla extract or a dash of salt to round out the flavors, but I don’t actually think it does. I’d make this again, but for one person, I’d like to try to figure out how to make it in the microwave rather than on the stove.

290: Alcoholic Hot Chocolate

It’s cold! We had our first freeze on Thursday night, and I finally turned on the furnace. However, we keep the thermostat set pretty low, so Friday night was a pretty good time to make hot chocolate.

I decided to shake things up a little bit by finding a recipe for Alcoholic Hot Chocolate. Cooking method was straightforward. In a saucepan, melt chocolate with milk, honey, brown sugar, and a cinnamon stick. After chocolate melts, add vanilla extract and whisk in rum.

This was really good. I’ve made lots of hot cocoa, but I don’t think I’ve ever made hot chocolate before. This hot chocolate had a rich texture with great mouth-feel. The thicker texture from the rich chocolate matched the depth that the rum flavor gave it. It wasn’t overly sweet, but that made the chocolate flavor that much better. This is a great dessert beverage. I like hot chocolate and so I figured I would enjoy this, but I was pleasantly surprised at how rich it was and how much I enjoyed it. I would make this again.

218: Cucumber Lemonade Chiller

With my abundant cucumbers, I decided to try something a little different by making a Cucumber Lemonade Chiller.

You puree cucumbers and rosemary and strain off the juice, mixing it with lemon juice, agave syrup, gin, and water to make lemonade. I got some of the puree in the cucumber juice without realizing it, so my lemonade was a little cloudy. I didn’t add gin until I’d already made the lemonade so that I could just add it to one glass and try the cucumber lemonade without it.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this. I actually didn’t like the rosemary in this recipe. I also preferred the cucumber lemonade without the gin. If you’re not a fan of gin, I suggest you withhold the rosemary from this recipe, and try it with vodka if you want it to have alcohol in it at all. I doubt I’d make this recipe again because trying to strain the cucumber puree was just a hassle. I’d rather just add a few slices of cucumber to a lemonade instead.

195: Raspberry Limeade

I decided to make Raspberry Limeade while my friend Karen was here. [Do you see a theme? People visit or I visit people, so I cook!] I was afraid that Alex and I wouldn’t be able to drink the entire recipe by ourselves, so Karen’s visit was a perfect excuse.

I followed the recipe very closely, and split it for the three of us.

Raspberry Limeade

This was pretty tasty and refreshing. If I made it again, I would probably blend the raspberries and then strain them, rather than trying to press all the juice out of them.

166: Latin Limeade

It was 9pm on June 30, and I needed to make another recipe to make 30 recipes during the month of June. I’d planned on making something else as Recipe #166, but I didn’t have enough of an integral ingredient for it.

I wasn’t really in the mood to bake anyway, so I looked around for beverages, and decided to make Latin Limeade.

This was basically a limeade made with brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar. It’s something that I wouldn’t have thought about doing.  It was also pleasantly simple, since I didn’t feel like doing anything complicated. I mixed 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup water, and 1 cup ice together in a glass.

It was pretty good, although I don’t drink limeade very often so I can’t say that it’s better than or not as good as regular limeade. It would have been better with fresh lime juice rather than bottled, but that would have made it a little more complicated. This beverage was refreshing. I enjoyed this enough that I’d make it again.

102: Raspberry-Avocado Smoothie

One day I read an article about using avocados in smoothies in place of yogurt. I like avocados, so I thought I’d try it. The recipe for a Raspberry-Avocado Smoothie is pretty simple – it’s 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 3/4 cup each orange juice and raspberry juice, and an avocado. My raspberry juice was a (no sugar added) raspberry juice blend from Trader Joe’s, and I glazed over the frozen raspberry part so mine were fresh.

This was pretty good. Alex isn’t the hugest fan of raspberries, and he was surprised that there was no yogurt in it. We could both taste the avocado in it. I do wish I had used frozen berries instead. This is a good non-dairy alternative to yogurt, but I think that I prefer to have my avocados with savory things, like in guacamole and on sandwiches.

86: Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Last week was not only unseasonably warm – my building still had the heat on, which meant my office was brutally hot. We would open the windows first thing in the morning, which made the warmth bearable until about 11am. I wish I had taken a thermometer to work so that I could have figured out how warm it was, but I heard that the temperature on the second floor was about 90F. It was probably about that temperature in my office on the first floor as well, since it felt refreshingly cool when I went outside into the record-high mid-80s.

My friend Jason blogged about iced coffee early last week. Specifically, he advocates cold-brewing your coffee if you’re going to drink it chilled. You can read a little more about what he has to say about this and find the instructions for making cold-brewed coffee here. His blog couldn’t have come at a better time for me, as iced coffee sounded incredibly refreshing in the hot, hot afternoons at work. This technique was also something that I’ve been interested in for a while, but I wasn’t sure about what proportions to use when I make it. (Would you believe that I’m still not quite sure how much coffee to use when I make hot coffee, either?)

I halved Jason’s recipe. I put 1/2 cup ground coffee in my french press and added 4 cups of cold water. I did this right before I went to bed so that I’d be able to strain it right before I went to work the next day. The next morning, I uncovered it, plunged the french press, and poured it into a couple of glass jars. I took one to work to have that afternoon, and saved the other to have later on in the week.

Cold-brewed iced coffee with a little ice and milk

The first day I had it with just a tiny bit of milk, and the second day with more milk (like in the picture above). This technique yielded a very smooth, strong coffee. I always add sugar or sweetener to hot coffee, but I didn’t feel a need to with this cold coffee. It wasn’t bitter, but it was strong and refreshing, perfect for sipping. I also liked how easy it was to make. I can see myself doing this a lot this summer.