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  1. Tuesday, December 20

    Salgar ROCKS…and Recipe for Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

    I am so voting for Leslie Knope because she truly is a visionary. She is the brains behind salgar after all, which is nothing short of a revelation! Plus, salgar is going to save me a lot of $$$ that otherwise would have been spent at Starbucks.

    Let’s start at the beginning. I’m a little bit in love with the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Starbucks. However, there are two things wrong with this love affair. First, it costs me too much money. Second, they only serve the stuff during the holidays. I’ve kind of sort of half-heartedly tried to replicate it at home before, but never with much success. Probably because I wasn’t trying that hard.

    This year, things are different. Which brings me back to Leslie Knope. When she introduced the world to salgar last week, well, I knew that my days of whipping up salted caramel hot chocolate to rival Starbucks’ had finally arrived. And I was right.

    For those of you who don’t watch Parks & Rec (p.s. you should be), salgar is simply sugar and salt mixed together. Sure, everyone thought Leslie was crazy, but I’m a believer.

    Which brings us back to the quest for the perfect salted caramel hot chocolate recipe. On Sunday I pulled all my ingredients together. Yummy hot chocolate. Perfect whipped cream. Caramel sauce. Salgar.

    I nailed it. And I might even be so brave as to say that it’s better than Starbucks. The best part? When the whipped cream and salgar topping are gone but you still have hot chocolate left, you can just throw a little more cream and salgar on top! For some reason Starbucks doesn’t let you go back for seconds. Who needs them? 😉

    Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Hot chocolate (whatever kind you like…but make sure it’s not flavored with cinnamon or peppermint or anything like that…just something pure…my favorite is melting chopped chocolate in milk)
    • Salgar (see below)
    • Perfect whipped cream (click through for “recipe”)
    • Caramel sauce (the kind that’s made for going on/in drinks, I got mine at Starbucks, I’ve seen it at other stores, too)
    Instructions
    1. Make your hot chocolate and pour in a mug. Add a pinch or two of salgar and a swirl of caramel sauce. Stir well. Top with whipped cream, another swirl of caramel sauce and salgar. Drink and get ready to thank me for transporting you to hot chocolate heaven in the comfort of your own home.

    Salgar
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner, inspired by Leslie Knope
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar (i.e. sugar in the raw)
    • ½ teaspoon ground sea salt.
    Instructions
    1. Mix. Done and done.

     


  2. Thursday, December 15

    Frost Bite Mocktail

    Today I made my first cocktail. Okay, it was a mocktail. But I still got to use a shaker. Which feels cool, people. Even if you’re just mixing up a mocktail for your kids.

    Sierra Mist contacted me recently about doing two sponsored posts involving cocktails and mocktails made with Sierra Mist Natural, a new drink that contains only real sugar, no artificial ingredients and 100% natural flavorings. I thought it would be fun so I decided to give it a go! I’ve honestly always liked Sierra Mist, so I’m happy they now have a natural version. And it’s a great ingredient for mixing up some fun mocktails and cocktails! {Shake, shake, shake! Shake, shake! That’s me with my new shaker. I can’t get enough of that thing.}

    For my first post I tried out one of Sierra Mist Natural’s mocktail recipes, the Frost Bite (see below). The girls and I had a little mocktail party and we all loved the drink! I like the subtle taste of lime and pineapple, which pairs nicely with the hint of mint. AND, I think I almost got frost bite shaking the cold stainless steel shaker, so the drink is appropriately named. 😉

    Without further ado, the recipe! I am going to share a few recipes with you, actually. The one I made was the Frost Bite Mocktail. Like I said, it was YUM. But there is a cocktail version, as well as a mighty delicious-looking martini, too! If you’re looking for even more mixing inspiration, you can “Like” Sierra Mist on Facebook and gain access to a bunch of other great drink recipes.

    Frost Bite (Cocktail)
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 3 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ounce Blue Curacao
    • 1 ounce Coconut Vodka
    • Fresh mint
    • 1 ounce Pineapple juice
    • Fresh blueberries (optional)
    Instructions
    1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix coconut vodka and pineapple juice
    2. Add blue curacao, fresh mint and blueberries (optional)
    3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
    4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

    Frost Bite (Mocktail)
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 3 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 2 ounces of White grape juice
    • Fresh blueberries
    • Fresh mint
    • 1 ounce Pineapple juice
    • 1 ounce Lime juice
    Instructions
    1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix fresh lime juice and pineapple juice
    2. Add white grape juice, mint and blueberries
    3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
    4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

    Meet Me At The Mist-letoe Martini (Cocktail)
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ½ ounces Raspberry Vodka
    • 3 Leaves fresh basil
    • ½ ounce Fresh lime juice
    • 1 ounce Blueberry juice
    Instructions
    1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to shaker filled with ice
    2. Add raspberry vodka and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain into a martini glass
    3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

    Meet Me At The Mist-letoe Martini (Mocktail)
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ½ ounces Raspberry juice
    • 3 Leaves fresh basil
    • ½ ounce Fresh lime juice
    • 1 ounce Blueberry juice
    Instructions
    1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to a shaker filled with ice
    2. Add raspberry and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain into a martini glass
    3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

    Next week I’ll share an original mocktail recipe created by yours truly (now that I have a shaker, I am a mixologist after all) and a giveaway you won’t want to miss!

    Tell me, did I make the right choice going with the Frost Bite Mocktail? I think so…but the Meet Me at the Mist-letoe Martini is starting to call my name…might have to get that shaker out again!

    Merry Mixing!


  3. Tuesday, December 13

    Hot Vanilla

    Today’s recipe involves drinking butter. Yep, you heard me. We are going to drink butter. And it’s going to be awesome.

    Every time I make bread pudding, I want to drink the milk mixture that goes into the recipe. So today I whipped up a variation of that milk mixture and drank it. And just like that ‘hot vanilla’ was born! (Okay, okay, maybe not born. I did a google search and turns out hot vanilla is not new, but whatever. I’m just pretending google doesn’t exist.)

    I am officially a fan of hot vanilla, especially my version (I know, so humble). It’s sweet, has a nice cinnamon-vanilla flavor, and the butter gives it a silky, almost-savory twist. Perfect for a cold winter day!

    Here’s to drinking butter!

    Hot Vanilla
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 2
    Ingredients
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1½ tablespoons butter
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • pinch of salt
    Instructions
    1. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk together over low to medium heat until butter melts and milk is as hot as you like it.


  4. Tuesday, December 15

    Homemade Vanilla Hot Chocolate

    This year I decided our neighbor & teacher holiday gift would be homemade vanilla hot chocolate. I figured it would be easier than making and decorating oodles of cookies. I was wrong. Well, only because I QUADRUPLED the recipe. And ended up having to grind about 10 pounds of chocolate. With a Cuisiniart mini-prep. Yeah, it was a feat.

    homemade hot chocolate web

    BUT…the vanilla hot chocolate is delicious! And a fun, unique gift to give friends for the holidays! You’ll find the recipe at the bottom of this post.

    A few quick notes. I have a Cuisinart mini-prep, which is what I used to grind the chocolate. It works fine…but if you DO have a bigger food processor, use it!

    This is the recipe I used the vanilla beans for. I saved the sugar-coated bean pods after I was done making the vanilla sugar…I figure I can use them in other recipes, even though the seeds are gone.

    homemade hot chocolate preparation web

    If you plan on making TONS and TONS and TONS like I did…you’re going to need BIG bowls. I ended up having to use three giant bowls and mixing all the ingredients between the three bowls, trying to evenly distribute the ingredients by mixing and remixing the contents of each bowl.

    bowls web

    No matter what amount you make, be prepared to have chocolate coating your kitchen. Also, I wore a towel over my face because I was literally inhaling cocoa powder when mixing it all together. That all said, if you don’t double (or triple…or quadruple!) the recipe, you’re not going to run into any of these issues. 😉

    Here was the final product. Aren’t they cute? I used some free gift tag templates from HP with matching ribbon.

    jarred homemade hot chocolate web

    Homemade Vanilla Hot Chocolate
     
    From Epicurious, makes about 10 cups
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups granulated sugar
    • ½ vanilla bean, split crosswise (see tips, below)
    • 1½ pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (see tips, below)
    Instructions
    1. Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
    2. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground.
    3. Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.
    4. Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.
    5. To serve, Jane’s instructions: I heat 2 cups of milk over the stove and whisk in about ⅓ cup of the mix. You can also heat the milk in the microwave and it works…but the stove is a little better. If you like it richer, add more mix!
    Notes
    Jane Note: I used 16 oz mason jars and was able to put ~1¾ cups of mix in each jar. When I quadrupled the recipe, I filled 19 jars, plus a little left over.

    Tips:
    •Save the other half of the vanilla bean for another use, such as a second batch of vanilla sugar, which keeps indefinitely and can be used in baking, coffee, or simply to sprinkle on fruit or waffles.
    •Dutch process cocoa has been treated with an alkaline solution, which gives it a darker color and less bitter flavor and makes it dissolve more easily.