Ginger Old Fashioned

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Hello, my name is Sara Lynn, and I am a young NYC man living in the year 1958 a 20-something woman who loves Old Fashioned cocktails.  But you can call me Don Draper.

Today, I will be sharing my favorite Old Fashioned recipe, because it’s my birthday, and I will be celebrating with Bourbon, Angostura bitters, and orange peel all night long if I have my way.  However, I’ll try to sneak a lemon drop or Manhattan in, so I can feel like Carrie Bradshaw.  I may have an identity crisis at the end of the night, but so be it.  Tonight is for celebration and cake and drinks with my friends!

Last summer while I was in London, the beers and ciders became kind of mundane after my 200th IPA.  One night, a group of (other) Nevada students and I went to a bar down the road from our dorm where I asked the bartender if they could mix cocktails.  Ignoring the slightly dubious look in the recent high-school-grad-of-a-bartender’s eyes, I asked for an old fashioned, which he then responded with, “What’s in it?”.  It was then that I learned that old fashioneds are American cocktails, and that England is strictly for wine, beer, and cider.  Message received.

I had an old fashioned when I flew home to the states, and while London is my absolute favorite place in the world, I’d really love if they would learn the finesse of an old fashioned.  (Or, if I just ended up at the wrong spot, if a local could recommend a good place for some whiskey).  However, since the first time I tried an old fashioned, I’ve been obsessed and haven’t looked back.

My first old fashioned was made with Bulleit bourbon and served out of a Tigger coffee mug around Christmas time while it snowed outside.  That’s a true story.  I’ve come a long way since then, but I can’t say that scenario won’t reoccur.  I am in college after all, and sometimes Disney coffee mugs are the only vehicle for alcoholic beverages.  However, I still do not own whiskey mugs, so discount water glasses bought at Home Goods will have to do for now.  The classic old fashioned is made with sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, citrus peel, ice, and Bourbon.  However, with the warmer weather, I decided to twist it up with some grenadine and Ginger Ale to make it a little more summery.  I love slow-sipping drinks, and I definitely think this one is perfect for an outdoor BBQ.

If you are more of a traditionalist, you can make the recipe the classic way without the Ginger Ale, maraschino cherries, and grenadine.  Or, if you like a drier drink, you can sub Club Soda for Ginger Ale.  If you’re having a party, you can leave these ingredients out for people to make their own Old Fashioned cocktails while you cook or talk with your friends. Old Fashioneds are forgiving and appealing to most cocktail-drinkers, so I consider them the perfect party drink.

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As a bday present to me, please make this Old Fashioned tonight (or order one at your favorite bar 😉 )

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dreaming by Seapony

 

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Perfect 15-Minute Brownies

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The more I blog about food, the more I realize the virtue in simplicity.  When I first started blogging about food, I tried to be “out there” and “different” with my recipes, which sometimes worked in my favor and sometimes didn’t.  Over the years, I have come to realize that food is better when the natural flavors are vividly present.  Food photography is far more attractive when there’s not 20 props in the shot.  Seeing food in a more natural state is so much more appealing than when it’s edited to oblivion and covered with cutesy clip-art images.

That is not to say that I don’t like to try crazy recipes or eat foods with more complex flavors.  The best part about food is that it is so versatile and that options are limitless.  However, food is also better when it complements each other, not just when a bunch of delicious foods are thrown together.  I like pizza and ice cream, but does that mean I want pizza ice cream?  (The answer is no if you haven’t guessed already).

The whole point of ramble is that food is amazing and can definitely be an outlet for creativity; but that doesn’t mean that it has to be insanely complex.  Sometimes, I just want a regular brownie.  Not a cheesecake brownie.  Not an orange-and-thyme-infused brownie (not a real thing, but it could be).  Just a brownie.

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When you are in the mood for Just a Brownie, this is the go-to recipe.  Please don’t go to the store and buy a boxed mix, because odds are, you already have brownie ingredients in your home, and these are so much better.  They also only take 15 minutes to put together (I timed it).  After the batter is made, all you have to do is wash the 3 dishes the recipe requires and watch an episode of Seinfeld, and the brownies are already done!

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Your mission this weekend, should you choose to accept it, is to make these brownies.  Brownies are the perfect Sunday project without a huge time commitment (did I already mention that they only take 15 minutes to mix together), and they come out tasting pretty much like fudge mixed with cake.  I’d highly recommend serving them with ice cream, but that’s just one girl’s opinion on the matter…

Also, I threw some walnuts and hazelnuts on top of mine, because I’m a professional, but you definitely don’t have to.

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XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Something Good This Way Comes by Jakob Dylan

Homemade Bagels

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About once a year, I get a strong yearning for summer.  The long days off, laying on the beach at Lake Tahoe, wearing light sun dresses and messy up-dos to keep the hair off my face, the smell of beer & cheeseburgers on the grill, Slurpees, riding bikes, bonfires when it starts to cool down at sunset, going on holiday, fireworks.  The time normally comes around late January/early February.  The holidays are over, so the snow isn’t lit up by Christmas lights, and comfort food feels too rich and loses its appeal.  Winter break has passed, and I’m back in school for “spring” semester, which is really just a tease, since it’s still 40* or below outside, and I’m tired of wearing the same sweaters and coats I’ve been wearing for months.  I stare longingly at my bikinis and dream of taking a roadtrip and going on hikes.

After a few days of missing summer, I normally resort back to my usual cold-dreary-weather-obsessed self, snuggle in my blanket with some hot tea, and watch a movie while the rain patters outside.  I indulge myself on the weekends with pot pie or roasted chicken, enjoy the cold Reno mornings surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and sip Guatemalas or Perus at the coffee shop.  Once summer comes around, I’m already dreaming of the brisk cold that sneaks in mid-September.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Tahoe with a *special human* to see the snow on the lake, which I had never done before.  I took some pictures, and we climbed on rocks at Sand Harbor to watch the sun dip completely under the horizon, which was incredible, albeit slightly dangerous.  Kings Beach was filled with cute kids in puffy snow onesies and dogs prancing after tennis balls on the beach.  My faith in winter was restored, and bagels were consumed over coffee the next morning.

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Which leads me to the bagels.  Lately, with stormy clouds blanketing Reno on my days off, I’ve taken to trying out more difficult recipes that I’ve never attempted before.  Oftentimes, I find that the recipes are not as hard as I initially thought, and they taste much better and cleaner than their store bought alternatives.  Such was the case with these homemade bagels.  Seemingly intimidating, but actually so easy, and they take no more than two hours to make.

I’ve been staying off of the internet lately, mostly due to a recent computer update from a certain tech company, let’s call them Schmicroshoft (no names please), that refuses to connect my computer with my wifi, essentially leaving it unusable, and leaving me to try solution after solution to no avail (but also because people keep talking about politics on social media).  Long run-on-sentence short, I spent 2 hours on the phone with said company, and my computer still isn’t fixed, which is why I haven’t gotten the opportunity to share this recipe until now.  But I promise, it’s probably one of the most successful recipes I’ve made, and it’s versatile enough to add whatever ingredients you want.  Use an egg wash, and sprinkle the homemade bagels with seeds, garlic, onion, cheese.  Mix in blueberries or chocolate chips.  Take one straight out of the oven, toast in under the broiler for a few minutes, and smother it with a thick slab of butter or cream cheese.

Don’t forget the coffee.

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*Bagels require high gluten flour, or they do not come out nearly as well.  I easily found bread gluten at my local bulk grocery, but if you cannot find bread gluten, you could also use high-gluten flour.

*If you top your bagels with seeds, onions, garlic, or cheese, you will need to brush them first with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water).  If you want blueberries or chocolate chips, you can mix them straight into the dough!

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XO SaraLynn
*Song of the Day: It’s Real by Real Estate*

 

How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY

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I know that you probably have lots of questions right now.  SCOBYs aren’t the prettiest things, so you’re probs confused and wondering if you’re supposed to eat that thing (please, God, no), or if it’s some kind of facial mask or what.  I promise, all questions will be addressed, but just hang with me.  SCOBYs are not easy to photograph, and it’s extra hard to make them look appetizing enough to be featured on a food blog.

A SCOBY is an acronym for ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’, and it’s used to make kombucha.  Now what’s kombucha?  It’s a naturally carbonated, sweet-and-sour drink made by fermenting tea.  Like wine and coffee, kombucha takes a few times to get used to.  It contains a little bit of alcohol naturally, but it’s perfectly safe for kids to drink!  Mixed with fruits and juices, it’s very versatile and tons of flavor combos can be made.  If you’re a big soda-fan looking to cut the sugar-y chemical-laden drink out of your life, kombucha is for you.  Why?  It has tons of health benefits!

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Funny story:  Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea to make kombucha!  I just grabbed the box without thinking (because it’s pretty), but I actually used a regular, caffeinated black tea to make my SCOBY.

Kombucha helps with gut and digestion health, detox, immune health, etc.  However, I personally like kombucha, because it helps with stomach problems.  My stomach is sensitive to all kinds of foods, and on certain days it can make me quite nauseous.  Friends with similar stomach problems recommended kombucha, and I really love how it makes me feel!  I don’t necessarily drink it every day, but every couple of days does the trick and really limits my ‘sick days’.

The only downside to kombucha is that the cost can add up if you’re consuming it in large amounts.  My solution was to learn how to make it, starting with the SCOBY!

The SCOBY is necessary, because it helps ferment the tea, which also adds health benefits.  You can buy SCOBYs online, but I’m incredibly impatient and don’t like waiting for things in the mail.  My next option was to learn how to make one.  (Bonus: buying the stuff to make a SCOBY is cheaper than buying a SCOBY online).  Once you make one SCOBY, a new SCOBY will be made with every kombucha batch.  You can start a farm of SCOBYs, or you can gift the new SCOBY to a kombucha-loving friend.

*Disclaimer: Some people recommend not making a SCOBY, but rather buying one, the main reason being that SCOBYs do not always grow if they’re homemade (has not been a problem for me at all).  However, I see no real risks in growing a SCOBY, and mine turned out successful!  Choose whatever option you’re comfortable with.

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Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea!  Grabbing this box was a Sara-moment.  I used caffeinated, regular black tea.

Let’s get started!

First, you’ll start by making a sweet tea.  The best tea to use is regular black tea, because it helps the SCOBY grow.  Once you have your new SCOBY, you can try other teas for the next batch, but try to use black tea at first!  Kombucha works best with caffeinated, non-herbal teas.  Herbal teas can damage the SCOBY, so be cautious.  Alternatively, you can use 1 1/2 Tbs. loose-leaf, but make sure to strain the leaves out before making your SCOBY.

Next, you’ll mix together your (cooled) sweet tea with a cup of your organic, raw kombucha.  You’ll want unflavored kombucha so that your SCOBY grows.

Then, you’ll put the mixture in a large jar.  You’ll want to wrap the mouth of the jar with paper towels or coffee filters to keep out bugs.  Then secure the paper towels with a rubber band, and pop on the lid!

Place your SCOBY in a dark room with an average temperature (not too cold, not too hot).  Leave it there for about 4 weeks.  You’ll start to notice a little film forming over the top.  It’ll get thicker and thicker, it may change colors, get bubbles, etc.  Don’t worry.  As long as it doesn’t grow grey or green mold, it should be fine.

Once it’s all grown up, you can use it to make your own kombucha!  The remaining liquid is drink-able, but it will be very strong.  You can use some of the liquid to make your first batch of kombucha, but you’ll probably want to just discard the rest.

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Start looking for new kombucha recipes in the near future!  I’ve been coming up with all kinds of flavors (:

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*Song of the Day: Youth Knows No Pain by Lykke Li*

Cinnamon Rolls

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[Update 1/12/16: I made these rolls last weekend for the first time since I posted this recipe.  I changed the recipe up a little bit for experimentation, and ended up liking the new recipe more.  I added more butter (yikes, I know), tried traditional scalded milk instead of buttermilk, and used a different icing.  The original recipe is in the body of the post, and the new recipe is on a recipe card at the bottom of the post.  The new rolls are more fluffy, but if you prefer the old recipe, it’s still there, no worries!  I also updated some new pictures, since my photography has gotten significantly better (but still left the old ones with instructions and whatnot).  Hope you guys love!  Xo.]

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Guys.

These are so good.

Have you ever had like, a really really really good cinnamon roll?  Not like a Cinnabon one, but a really delicious, homemade cinnamon roll?  It’s a special kind of experience everyone should get to have.

I’m happy to report that you may now make your own if you truly wish to experience the phenomenon of eating an out-of-this-world cinnamon roll.

I have truly done it.  I have created the perfect cinnamon rolls.

They take pretty much all day to make, but they’re super easy.  I promise, you can make these!  Just make sure you have new yeast and everything is going to be okay.  You can do anything.

Sara Lynn: motivator and cinnamon roll goddess.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe you should make these cinnamon rolls and let me know if you think that I’m a cinnamon roll goddess.

A disclaimer about the following pictures:

1. My nail color randomly changes from red to sparkly pink because I got my nails done while the dough was rising.  I highly recommend you find something time consuming to do while you wait because cinnamon rolls take a long time to rise and a long time to make in general (but still so worth it).

2. The pictures change from good quality to bad quality because, again, they take a while to make and I ran out of daylight.

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Shall we get started?

Cinnamon Rolls:

1/2 c. warm water

1 package instant yeast

1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 egg

1/3 c. melted butter

4 1/2 c. flour

Filling:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon

Pinch salt

Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese

2 Tbs. butter

1 1/2-2 c. powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like your icing!)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2-3 Tbs. milk, to thin

Pinch salt

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First, you’re going to want to mix together your warm water, yeast, and a tablespoon of sugar.  Set it aside to double in size!

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Mix 1/2 c. sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl.

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Nice and doubled!  Yay!

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Mix together buttermilk, egg, and butter.

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Add half of the flour mixture until it’s incorporated.

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Add the yeast mixture and stir together.

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It might not mix very well because it’s going to be very lumpy and thin like pancake batter.

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Mix in the rest of the flour and knead a few times with your hands.

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Knead until smooth and beautiful.

Set aside in a warm place covered with plastic wrap or a towel.  Let rise for 1-2 hours.

*insert random photo and nail color change*

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Once it has risen, punch the dough a few times.DSCN4128

Roll until about 1/8 inch thick.

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Brush with melted butter.

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Mix together cinnamon, sugars, and salt for your filling.

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And spread it all around!

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Roll it up.

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Brush it with more butter (sorry cholesterol).

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Cut into rolls that are about 2 inches wide.  You should have about 8 pretty ones.

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And a few not so pretty ones 😦  Oops!

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Brush a parchment lined casserole dish with more butter.

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Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and sugar.

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Line the cinnamon rolls in the casserole dish.  Set them aside, covered, to rise for another hour or two.

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Look how pretty!!!  (That top left one is so sad.  Poor little guy.  Still delicious).

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Bake at 350* F for about 14-16 minutes, or until a light golden brown.

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Meanwhile, mix together the icing!  Whip butter and cream cheese together until incorporated.  Add sifted powdered sugar and vanilla.  Thin with milk.

(Uhm, is this not just the worst picture you’ve ever seen?  Did I even try?  Just trust me, it’s a delicious icing).

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Yay, they’re baked and beautiful!

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Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls.

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Hell yeah.

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Do you see that cinnamon filling?  Oh my gosh.  I might go grab one of my extras from the freezer right now.  They’re sooooo good.

Which reminds me, if you have too many because you made 11 cinnamon rolls and you live by yourself, just go ahead, wrap them in some plastic wrap individually and then place them in freezer bags.  They’ll stay good for a few months and you can indulge in cinnamon bun goodness whenever you want!

Go make these.  Right.  Now.

cinnamon roll recipe

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* Notes*:  1. I use my mixer with dough hook, but these can also be made with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon!  I’ve done tries both methods and either works! 2. If your dough won’t rise, try heating oven to 250* F, turning oven off, and placing covered bowl of dough in warm oven (make sure bowl is oven proof!).  Leave alone for 2 hours.  3. If dough still won’t rise, your yeast is probably old.  Buy new yeast and start again.  4. Rolls can be made one night, and baked in the morning!  Just form the rolls and let them do their second rise in the fridge overnight (8-12 hours).  In the morning, remove from fridge, and let warm up for about an hour.  They will take longer to bake (upwards of about 30 or 40 minutes, so don’t worry if they don’t bake quickly!  Cover with foil halfway through if they start to brown too much.)

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*Song of the Day: Won’t You Come Over by Devendra Banhart

Norwegian Lefse

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Merry Christmas!  I’m extra excited to share a recipe today, because it’s a traditional Norwegian recipe my family has been making for years.  For non-Norwegians, lefse is pronounced lef-sah, and it is a flatbread made out of potatoes.  It’s kind a cross between a tortilla and a crepe.  My family makes it every year, and we always have it on Christmas Eve with oyster stew (and other things, because as it turns out, many people aren’t necessarily fans of oyster stew).

I’m not quite sure if lefse is a Christmas tradition in Norway.. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s something they eat year round (??).  However, we make it for Christmas, and we always have it with butter and sugar.  Just roll it up and eat it like a tortilla!

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I love lefse, because it’s my family’s “thing”.  We never have to worry about it coming out perfectly round, and if it turns out too dry or too thick, nobody cares.  When it’s covered with butter and sugar, it’s always going to be good!  Growing up, we always had it during the holidays, and I love being able to share the tradition with my friends.  I watched my grandma make it growing up, and now I make it with myself with my grandmother, mom, and brother!

Like I said, we always had it with butter and sugar, but if that isn’t your thing, there are many other ingredients you can put on lefse: cinnamon, PB&J, meatballs, ham and cheese, veggies and cream cheese, jam…whatever concoction you create in your mind.

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Some lefse making tips:

1. Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling them.  It avoids any unnecessary water.

2. Mix riced potatoes with butter and refrigerate overnight.  Again, this dries out the potatoes a little so the dough isn’t too wet.

3. Roll them as thin as you can.  Thin lefse is a lot better than thick lefse!  (Although, if they do come out a little thick, they’ll still taste good!)

4. Don’t worry about them coming out perfectly round.  I don’t even understand how people make that a reality.

5. Only add cream if the dough feels too dry.  Otherwise, leave it out.

lefse!

Merry Christmas friends!

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*Song of the Day: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Zooey Deshchanel and Leon Redbone*

Espresso Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

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You can ask anyone in my family about my hot chocolate preferences, and they will tell you that I am a hot chocolate snob.  No really, that’s a thing, and I am part of the demographic.  When I was really little, my dad would make me hot chocolate every night with Ovaltine.  If it was too hot outside, he would make me chocolate milk.  I called it “brown milk” and I specifically remember asking for it while my parents read me my books.  So naturally, the first time I had the packet-mixed-with-water type of hot chocolate, I was sorely underwhelmed.  As a kid, I hated it, and I hate it now.  I don’t even want flavored hot chocolates-peppermint, orange zest, and cayenne pepper have no right.  I’ll just take my regular hot chocolate made with milk and Ovaltine or some type of pretentious homemade chocolate syrup, thank you very much.

Until now….Because in case we haven’t yet discussed my obsession with coffee or how I want to own my own cafe someday (we have), I have quite the love affair with all things coffee.  And like my hot chocolate, I don’t want extra added flavors-I want pure, good quality, black coffee, maybe with a little cream and sugar when I have a craving.

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I was fairly skeptical at the idea of mixing together my beloved espresso with hot chocolate.  While I do appreciate a good mocha every once in a while, it’s not usually my cup of tea coffee, and I wasn’t really looking to make a mocha here.  What I really wanted was a creamy hot chocolate with intense cocoa flavor.  Borrowing the idea that sometimes coffee is added to chocolate cake recipes to enhance the cocoa flavor, I decided adding a little espresso to my hot chocolate might to do the same thing.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  I will reiterate that this is not a mocha.  The espresso is definitely noticeable, but its main function is to complement the cocoa flavor.  I added some vanilla whipped cream to the top, which melts with the heat, and creates this cool layer on top that mixes in with the hot chocolate, and overall, it was probably my favorite part.  Honestly, I was worried that with only five ingredients, it would be bland, but it was anything but.

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hot chocolate recipe

Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family!  Make this hot chocolate when you’re opening presents or having dessert tonight, or even for breakfast tomorrow.  It’s the perfect mix of your favorite childhood drink and your favorite (morning) adult drink, so it will be sure to make everyone happy!

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*Song of the Day: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra