Today is a blustery day. Wind howls, the sky growls, and I wish we had a fireplace.

Despite this lack, I will fight this chill! It is time for hot cocoa. I have two recipes, one which is much more akin to the cocoa everyone is used to (you can make a lot of it, store it in some kind of airtight container, and then all you need is hot milk and some vanilla). The other is by far my favorite, and it is actually a very thin ganache.

For those days when I have no bar or chip chocolate in the house, I keep this tupperware in my cabinet. Emergencies! Pour:

2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa (the better the cocoa, the better the cocoa!)
1 pinch salt

Put the lid on this, and shake it thoroughly.  When cocoa is desired, fill favored mug with hot milk and a bare splash of vanilla, along with a heaping spoon of mix. Hoorah!

However, if one does have chip or bar type chocolate in the house…

Ganache is a simple thing. It’s no more than heavy cream with chocolate melted in until it shines. It’s quite thick, and used as filling for truffles, or as a frosting. However, if made thin – with regular ol’ milk, and more of it than usual – it is the singular most decadent hot cocoa. Ever.

Take your favored mug. put in chocolate chunks. Halfway up the side makes it pretty thick, if you like that sort of thing. 1/4 of the way up makes it much closer to the texture of good hot cocoa, and even one lone chip will flavor the milk a little. Dark chocolate is always a good idea, but if milk chocolate is what you have, this is still by far better than any other cocoa!

Add a splash of vanilla to the top of your chunks, and pour milk over the top. Microwave for 30 seconds. (You can do this in a double boiler too, especially if you’re doing it for a lot of people. I’m usually just making for me.) Stir, and if there are any chunks left, microwave for a bit more. When you’re done stirring, it will have a glistening chocolate sheen.


I would drink up, right there, but if you’re the kind you can add a lot of things. Bailey’s makes a great addition, if you’re of the mind – Bailey’s mint and Bailey’s caramel work just as well (Housemate, who has now left us, would attest to the caramel variety!) If you’re looking to keep your cocoa non-alcoholic, mint, candy cane chunks, a candy cane stirrer, a cinnamon stick, candy caramel topping….The possibilities, how endless they are. 

 You can add whipped cream or marshmallows, but I don’t find either necessary.


For this particular workshop cookery, you will learn how to make your own mayonnaise. It is very simple, tasty, and you can alter it as you like!  We will be making “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese” to steal a line from RR. (Yesterday it was the rerun where she makes “grown up chicken fingers.”

Anyway. So instead of just mayo (’cause that’s boring and you can get it in the store!) we’ll make Roasted Garlic Mayo. However, mayo is simply the emulsion of egg yolk with oil. That kind of explains so much doesn’t it? You’re emulsifying a fatty protein thing with a fat, no more.  I promise, the results are more appetizing than that!

(Also, if you’re super duper anal about the whole egg-yolk thing, you can get pasteurized egg yolk. But don’t be!)

So, first, roast two heads of garlic. We’ve done this before. Just lop their ickle ‘eads off and stick them in the oven at 350-400 degrees until the house smells insanely good/they are quite brown. Then, squeeze out every last bit of garlicky goodness into your blender.

Now, I personally like to add the egg white to my mayonnaise as well. This means that it becomes paler, and it also is considerably more airy, and feels a bit less heavy in your mouth. In short: You don’t have to, lots of people prefer that you don’t, but I like it that way. Also it’s whiter in color, so you might be more capable of convincing picky friends that homemade mayo won’t kill you.

So I added 2 eggs. Hoorah! I also added at this juncture my other flavors, namely some salt, some pepper, and 1.5-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, for tang.

Blend this until smooth. Now, get out your vegetable oil or olive oil, whichever you prefer (I would use the most flavorless oil I have in the house, so it depends on what grade olive oil you’re talking about) and sloooowly start drizzling. Stop when it looks like mayonnaise. It will likely take a cup.

Now, slice off two slices of a nice, crusty bread. Spread each piece with butter on one side, delicious mayo on the other. Put a thick layer of medium-cheddar slices (a nice compromise between flavor and melty-ness) on one of the mayo sides. Sandwich, and fry until the cheese has melted.

Enjoy. Save the rest of the mayo in an airtight container. It’ll last a week. (A week’s worth of amazing sandwiches…)

Mom and Dad requested the Asian version, which was

Sesame Chicken I used whole breasts though, and cooked them covered so that they would be super tender and juicy!
Garlic Wontons
Pear and Carrot Salad
Chocolate Wontons

The recipe for the Pear and Carrot salad, as I’ve posted everything else before, is as follows:

1/3 cup sushi vinegar
2 drops soy sauce or to taste
1 healthy splash (teaspoon?) lemon juice
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1/4 tsp ginger (a few shakes)
2 asian pears
shredded carrots
english walnuts

This, being a salad, is a very loose recipe. First, I julienned the pears. Asian pears are small, so I left them as long as the pear is from top to bottom, rather than cutting them in half. Do as you like.

I put in an even amount of carrots and pears. Also, I didn’t like the walnuts at all – they made my mouth feel more full of acid – but I was loudly outvoted by everyone else. Interestingly enough, the walnuts were my idea in the first place.

Anyway, the dressing is also pretty loose. Obviously, I didn’t measure when making it, but everyone adored the recipe. Start with the rice wine vinegar, add the lemon juice next, then the rest. Then taste, and add more of whatever as needed. It should be pretty tangy, as the pears are nice and sweet, but you can sweeten as necessary for your pear’s level of ripeness. Just taste one of your little strips.

Enjoy! Dad and I thought it might also go well with sushi, and he thought duck would be a good idea. What kind of duck – all kinds? I don’t know! It is very light, and would cut duck’s greasy taste.

This particular recipe is something I stole from my dad, mashed up until you can’t recognize it even a little (the only familiar ingredient is bone-in skin-on chicken breasts) and replated.

Turned out great!

The original recipe is sour cream stuffed chicken, and while it was good, it left a distinct “I am fat” feeling in its wake. I mean, you just ate a chicken breast that you ruined all nutritional value of with a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Per person. Eek!

These use less stuffing and more flavor, so you feel less fat and more full. First, buy some bone-in-skin-on chicken breasts. No cheating. Yes, the skin is on. You can take it off, if you’re that virtuous, but really, the amount of skin per breast isn’t very high, so it’s not that bad. Only eat half, save the rest for later, no big deal. Either way, you’ll be stuffing stuff under that skin, so you need it.

You’ll also need a small amount of ricotta cheese, garlic, your personal favorite blend of Italian seasonings, sea salt, and parmigianno reggiano. I like grating my own. I like grating cheese. I just do, okay?

Whoo. Personal oddities aside, clean out your chicken. Rinse it off, get rid of major fat deposits, but leave as much skin intact as possible. Also, if you can, select breasts where the skin is unbroken and still cleanly attached on one side. It makes stuffing much easier. Pat the chicken dry (hah! I just wipe and go. But if you’re looking for extra crispy skin, it does help). Mix sea salt and Italian seasonings in a bowl and pat the mixture all over the chicken. Or, you can do what I do and sprinkle both generously all over and pat down. Go you, you washed one less dish.

So, pull out a bowl (you really do have to this time) and put in 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese per breast. Grate a healthy amount of cheese over the top (I would guess it was 1/2 tablespoon per?) and mix in 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic. If your guests aren’t garlic nuts, either puree the crap out of it and put in less, or leave it out altogether (boo!).

Stir all of that together and put 1-2 tablespoons in each breast. Roast at 450 for 15 minutes, and then drop the temperature down to 350 or so. Then, cook until the meat is 170 and the juices run clear.

Let the meat stand. LET THE MEAT STAND. I know it smells like heaven has come down upon your home to personally bless your chicken, but unless you like scalding hot ricotta spilling everywhere leave it be. It won’t explode, but it sure won’t be in your chicken either. 10 minutes should finish up the cooking.

Eat. Focaccia makes a great side, if you can eat carbs, and don’t forget your favorite Mediterranean veggie of choice.

So a while ago, my mother purchased this cranberry jalepeno salsa/jelly out of curiosity. The vendor at the kitchen store told her to try it with cream cheese and crackers. She did so, while Josh and I were there, and ohmiword people, this stuff is amazing. Knock your socks off, out of the water amazing.

Of course, I had to try to recreate it. All recipes searched proved utterly incorrect (I knew there was no cilantro whatever from the ingredients tin, also a lack of cilantro taste. It wasn’t gelatinous at all, and quite sweet) so I had to engineer my own. A couple in particular (here and those found here) helped more than others, but largely this is a memory recall.

It didn’t taste quite the same, and mine is considerably chunkier than the original, but it is equally spectacular. I also couldn’t find plain cranberries, so I had to hydrate dried ones. It was still a smashing success.

Cover a double handful of dried cranberries with water and let them hydrate. Microwaving will expedite this process. My double handful came out to about a cup of basically rehydrated berries. They were still shriveled, but they weren’t taking any more water. I left in 1 tablespoon of “water” but if you are using regular berries, you should use cranberry juice. Just squish some out of the berries.

Now, chop one large jalapeño. Did I say chop? I meant mince. Finely. Like water. Be a human food processor! Or, better, actually chop them in a mini food processor. You don’t want pieces of this, kay? Also, take out the seeds and membrane.

Mix this in. Also mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey and a 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir (it helps if the berries are slightly warm from the rehydration, but I’m sure it works fine otherwise).

Let stand in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pour out over 1 package of softened cream cheese (it’s fine if you don’t soften, just put out spreading utensils for your guests). Put crackers around the cream cheese and eat!

So yesterday I trussed up a chicken thusly:

Purchase whole chicken. Rip everything out of cavities, throw away. I don’t eat neck, nor am I fond of chicken gravy. Bleeech.

Wash. Pat dry.

Peel 2 heads of garlic. If the cloves are large, cut them up into smaller bits. Stab a small hole into the chicken and slip a piece in. Repeat, until out of garlic.

Cut fresh rosemary into 1″ long branches. Repeat as with garlic.

Pat sea salt all over the skin of the bird. Also, when doing the garlic and stuff, remember that you will want to eat more than the breasts. Stick garlic and rosemary in the other parts, too.

Roast in crock on low for 8 hours. If you’re leaving it alone, put in 1.5 cups of water. Otherwise, put in 1/2 a cup at the beginning, 1/2 c at 2.5 hours, 1/2 c at 5 hours. You’ll get a drier skin that way.

Pull out the garlic pieces and rosemary branches before consuming. What’s leftover….well, recipes all week will include those! We had it with asparagus, even though the asparagus came from Guatemala or wherever.  Josh has been craving asparagus, so asparagus he gets!

It was really easy, tasted like I spent hours in the kitchen. Spent all of five minutes. Awesome.

This is the easiest thing ever. It is, in fact, so simple that I invented it when I was 5 with my cousin. We were at her house, and we were hungry. I wanted biscuits, she wanted something sweet – but no jelly – and so we compromised. We were heartbroken when someone told us that Kraft had been doing this for years. Idea stealers.

Anyway, Thing One: Take kitchen scissors, because your mom won’t let you play with a knife yet, and cut up the biscuits into 4-6 peices. If your mom doesn’t have kitchen scissors, you can tear the biscuits up with your fingers, that’s okay.

Thing Two: Get two bowls out of the cupboard. Make sure that one of them is okay for being in the microwave, kay? And unbreakable would be good. Melt butter in the microwavable one, maybe one stick. That’s a 1/2 cup! It’s okay if there’s a little taken off, but not much.

In the other one, while the butter is melting, put a 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl. (The cup that is in the sugar bowl is probably a good size, right?) Then shake enough cinnamon on that it is a little brown and smells good. Mix it together. There should be lots of brown specks, but it should be mostly sugar.

Thing One should dip the pieces into the butter – her hands are already sticky! – and drop them into Thing Two’s bowl. Shake and shake until the pieces are all covered, but don’t get any on the floor, okay? Mom would be mad and you would have to clean it up.

Put it into a bread pan. They are long and thin and deep, but if you can’t find one, ask mom. She’ll know. Spray it with the spray oil. Ask mom where that is too. Put all your buttery sweet pieces in there and have mom heat up the oven (400 degrees, mom!) and bake it for 15 minutes or until it’s done. Eat with your fingers and a LOT of wet wipes.

(Mom/babysitter: 1/2 c sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons cinnamon. 6 tablespoons of butter is usually enough. Also, if you want to be mother of the year, take 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 1 c powdered sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Blend. If it needs thinning, add splashes of milk. Pour/spread over warm monkey bread.

However, if your kids are hyperactive already, don’t!)

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