Warm and Cozy Hot Chocolate

We have an icky bug floating around the house. It’s just a cold, but there are five of us. And when we have an icky bug, it can take weeks to run it’s course through our family. We still have a few sniffles, but we’re almost in the clear. The little one started it all. She missed school last Friday because of it. And of course they had something special planned that day. It breaks my heart when they’re sick. It’s worse when they miss an event they’ve been looking forward to all week because of it. This called for a little extra mommy lovin’.

So I had to re-create “warm and cozy day” at home. Especially since she was fighting a cold. We made hot chocolate from scratch. I haven’t bought that stuff in the packets in over a year.  We used to always have it around. So now when I make hot chocolate, it’s extra special.

While I prepared the hot chocolate, she picked a spot and arranged our picnic blanket and her stuffed “aminals”. She came to the kitchen several times. She’d grab my hand and lead me into the living room and ask “Is this okay?” They are unbelievably cute when they’re three.

The cookies were Trader Joe’s Highbrow Chocolate Chips. We don’t normally have this kind of thing in the house, but they were leftover from an event over the holidays. I was saving them for an emergency, and this seemed like the right time. The warm, creamy hot chocolate and those crispy cookies were perfect together. She forgot all about school.

“Uh oh. I had a little accident Mommy.” No problem. I worried that the all that chocolate would keep her from napping, but she slept soundly. The fever never came back after that. I doubt it had much to do with our warm and cozy hot chocolate, but who knows. I let her believe it was the cure.

Warm and Cozy Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • pinch of  sea salt
  • 2 ounces good quality dark chocolate (or 1 square)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil
  • splash of organic heavy cream or half and half (optional)
  • marshmallows are optional

Method:

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coconut oil and salt until dissolved.
  3. Stir in the chocolate until melted.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool slightly or add a splash of cold heavy cream or half and half, or a dollop of whipped cream. Throw in a few marshmallows if desired. Makes 2 servings.

I decided to add the coconut oil not just for a little more flavor, but to make it a little extra nourishing for my feverish lil’ pumpkin. And to strengthen my immune system, just in case I was next… I was.

Coconut oil has been used for centuries to treat illnesses.

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia. As a result of these various health benefits of coconut oil, though its exact mechanism of action was unknown, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system. (from organicfacts.net)

I also had some homemade almond flavored whipped cream leftover from the a few nights before. Whipped cream is ridiculously easy to make from scratch. A cup of organic heavy cream, a few tablespoons of confectioners sugar and some almond extract, all whipped together with a stand or handheld mixer on high speed until thick and creamy. You can substitute with whatever extract you prefer. Store bought whipped cream isn’t anywhere near this good.

I doubled the recipe so I’d have enough leftover for the other two when they came from school. Friday treat!!

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones

Last week I received an email from my middleschoolers’ math teacher. I got nervous when I saw her teacher’s name in my inbox.

She’s been struggling in this class. There are only two weeks left to bring up her grade and I feared she was going to tell me that she was going to fail the quarter.

Instead, I was relieved to hear that she had seen real improvement and focus in Haleigh since they’ve been back from winter break. What a relief.

A Friday Treat was in order, to reward my girl for her hard work. Something sweet, but not too sweet.

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons real unsalted butter (cold or frozen, sliced)
  • 1/2 cup organic sour cream
  • 1 large pastured egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried organic cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white morsels
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Process the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and butter in a food processor until everything is combined. (You can cut the butter into the dry ingredients by hand if you don’t have a food processor.) The texture of this mixture should resemble corn meal.
  3. In a medium bowl beat eggs and sour cream together, then add the flour and butter mixture to the eggs and sour cream. Mix until combined, but don’t over mix. Scones are supposed to have a rough, crumbly texture.
  4. Gently mix in the chopped cranberries, white morsels and chia seeds just until they are evenly distributed through the dough. You may find that you’ll need to use your hands to gently knead them in evenly and to bring the dough together, but don’t over handle.
  5. Dump the dough on to a floured surface and gently pat out into a large disk, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough like a pizza into 8 pieces and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool for 5 minutes (if you can wait that long).

(Click here for a printer friendly version.)

My kids loved these! They have a lot less sugar than a chocolate chip cookie, but the kids didn’t mind a bit. Other than that they aren’t much different from cookies. I might cut them into 12 next time and shorten the cooking time just a bit. One scone seemed like too much. You could also substitute almost any dried fruit and any kind of baking chips (or leave them out if you want). It’s a really versatile recipe and easy to tailor to suit different tastes. But make sure you use real butter. Margarine contains too much water which might make the dough too wet. And get unsalted. I never understood why recipes called for unsalted butter, but called for salt later all, until recently. Most cooks will tell you that unsalted butter is “purer” and fresher than salted butter. Salt can be added to improve any “off” taste and to preserve older butter. More care is taken with unsalted butter and therefore the quality and taste is better. At least that’s the idea. Some say that in today’s market, there isn’t really a difference between the two, except that one is saltier. Who knows. But just to be sure, I now only buy unsalted. I can add my own salt (which is probably better than theirs anyway.)

By the way, chia seeds might be hard to find, but they’re worth looking for. I get them at a local health food store, Healthy Home Market. They have more Omega-3’s than flax seeds and are rich in antioxidants. Those tiny black seeds remind of poppy seeds, so I sprinkled some on top.  Ch-ch-ch-chia! (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

Road Trip: Tampa, Legoland, Honeymoon Island and Savannah

I had this whole post typed up about the responsibility of meat eaters to know where their food comes from. Bla, bla, bla… Spent an hour writing it and linking lots of informative sites. Then realized it sounded a little preachy and a bit like vegan or PETA propaganda. I’m not vegan. I’m not a member of PETA. And I hate propaganda, so I deleted the entire thing. Instead I’ll just say this: You should watch this footage of a Butterball turkey plant located in my home state of North Carolina. And here’s the story from the Chicago Tribune that led me to it. Enough said. I’d rather post about our recent road trip to Tampa, Legoland, Honeymoon Island and Savannah.

We rarely travel during the winter, especially during the holidays. And when we did (many years ago) it was to go north to Pennsylvania to visit relatives there. It’s usually frigid and the last time there was a ton of snow on the ground. I love snow, but it’s bitter-sweet when it’s too cold to play outside. Beautiful to look at though.

But this time we traveled south to visit my sister in Tampa. We took the kids to Legoland (thanks Mom) and spent New Year’s Eve on the BEACH!! It was 78 degrees and my kids were in bathing suits and swimming in the gulf. It was kind of surreal to spend New Year’s Eve on a beautiful, warm beach. Aside from the strange, eerie fog that covered Honeymoon Island most of the day, it was wonderfully refreshing for my soul, not to mention all kinds of fun.. and relaxing.

Legoland just opened in October and it was crowded. All of the theme parks in Florida were crowded according to the news broadcast that morning. I’ve made the mistake of going to Disney during spring break and now I know that winter break is only slightly less crowded. But still we had plenty of fun. I had no idea that the Cypress Gardens were in the park and going in there was like warping into some kind of magical garden. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful – a stark contrast to what was going on outside the garden. Cypress Gardens was Florida’s first theme park back in 1936. (I wish I had visited it before it was part of Legoland.) The Banyan Tree was one of the oddest, most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. You could sense the quiet awe from those of us admiring the tree. Roots literally fall from the branches in search of soil. Mother nature never ceases to amaze me. This horrible cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice. I got a new DSLR camera, but didn’t want to lug it around all day. I realized that it was a big mistake as soon as I stepped foot in the gardens. You should see this tree in person, if you ever get the chance.

We left Tampa on New Year’s Day and headed for Savannah. I love this city. The history. The architecture. The natural beauty. Spanish Moss hanging from nearly every tree. The people. We’ve visited quite a few times, but this is a town you want to keep coming back to.  (And I took my camera everywhere this time.) We splurged a little and stayed at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in the middle of downtown so that we could walk out the door in the morning and start exploring. The hotel itself was beautiful and grand. The view from our balcony and the sound of church bells the next morning were breathtaking. (The biting cold and wind hadn’t arrived yet.)

We headed out in search of breakfast and bumped into to a local senior out walking his dog. He could tell we were looking for something and kindly offered to help. Apparently we were headed in the wrong direction if we wanted a good breakfast. He suggested Clary’s Cafe. The restaurant was established about a hundred years ago. The breakfast menu was amazing. I wish I had tried a bite of ‘someone’s pancake with the Georgia Cane Syrup, but I was just too full from my veggie omelette. Thank you to the gentleman that directed us there.

After breakfast we headed toward Forsyth Park. Beautiful. We were there for at least an hour and got some great photos.

Then we headed toward River Street to check out the shops. The wind began tunneling through the buildings.

Eventually we got to the cobblestone streets near River Street. The wind was downright painful by then and we ducked in and out of shops as quickly as we could and sought out sunny patches anytime we had to be outside for more than a minute. The Mad Hatter was a fun stop for the girls. They tried on some funky hats. I didn’t notice the sign restricting photos until my sister-in-law pointed it out, after I’d already taken a few. I’m glad I didn’t.

We visited an art gallery and I found some strikingly beautiful photographs taken at Bonaventure Cemetery. We also passed a couple of Savannah College of Art and Design student galleries that Haleigh (my budding artist) and I wanted to visit, but we were running out of time and the wind and cold was finally unbearable. Next time Haleigh. SCAD, the galleries and Bonaventure Cemetery will be our priority. Maybe our first mother-daughter trip.

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