Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Homemade Hot Chocolate


Hot chocolate is a staple for me in the winter. It helps me satisfy those sweet cravings without wreaking total havoc on my healthy eating choices. When I ran out tonight, it was a problem. It was an especially big problem because I just got home from the gym, I was a hot, sweaty mess, and it was a windchill of 8 degrees. Who wants to run back out in that state? Pinterest to the rescue. I have made hot chocolate at home before, but it had powdered milk in it and that's not an ingredient I keep on hand. I figured there had to be another way and I was right. I found multiple ways. Here's what I decided. I am a dark chocolate gal. I'm at 86% cacao and I think it's divine. Most of the recipes I found had more sugar than cocoa. I wasn't exactly sure how this was going to work, but I knew I didn't want it to be super sweet. I decided to start with a 50-50 ratio. I usually have regular cocoa powder and special dark cocoa powder. I went with a 50-50 ratio on those too. I also added some salt. So what's that look like in my first batch? 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup special dark cocoa powder, 1 1/2 t salt.

Mix it all up and use about 2 T per cup of milk. I had more than 8oz of milk and I also used half 2%  and half half/half to add some creaminess. You can heat it up on the stove or you can be impatient like me and use the microwave. If I'm being honest, this is still a bit sweet for me. It's delicious, but when I run out (next week) I'll try it at a 75-25 ratio of cocoa to sugar.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Osso whatto?

Osso Buco. I had no idea what that was, but after eating it you might call it fancy pot roast. I mean no disrespect by that either, as I happen to love a good pot roast. This is up several notches from your ordinary pot roast though.

We tend to be a frugal household. How does that translate at the grocery store? My husband always knows when the chicken wings "sell by" date is and knows to be there the day before to buy them. Thank the Lord for the deep freezer we just got from our awesome parents for Christmas. It also means I will always look at the "Manager's Special" section at Kroger. Not being big red meat eaters, I will usually get any roasts or steaks from this area and just cook them that night for dinner. Last time we were at the store together we saw this shrink wrapped package of beef shanks. I had no idea what part of the cow that was, how to cook it, or what it might be good with, but it was a good price and the meat looked quite good, so it came home with us. After about 20 minutes on Pinterest looking up beef shanks, I saw a pin with the "S" word in the title (Simple!) and I was sold.

In case you're like me and you didn't know, the shank is the the upper leg of the cow. Because it's a part that is used often it's very muscular and tends to be tough, so you have to cook it for a long time to get it tender. It's a Milanese dish prepared with vegetables, wine, and broth. Those are all things I usually have in the house, so right off the bat I knew this was going to be my recipe. The original is Taste of Divine's recipe and only made a minimal change. Instead of chopping a carrot, onion, and celery I used a bag of Mirepoix vegetables I had in the freezer. It's what I had, so I made it work.

I used my cast iron dutch oven to make this dish. You start by seasoning the meat well with salt and pepper. I used seasoned salt because I like it!
Get a couple tablespoons of olive oil in your pan and get it nice and hot. You'll sear the meat on both sides, I let mine cook about 2 minutes each side. Enough to make them nice and brown. This will prevent them from falling to pieces while cooking later.
Remove the seared meat from the pan, turn the heat down to about medium, and add your vegetables. I used 2 cups of mixed veggies. Does that translate to one carrot, one onion, one celery stalk? Who knows? It looked like a good amount though. Add two cloves of minced garlic as well. Let that cook until softened and brown. With frozen veggies it only took a few minutes.

Now grab your favorite dry red wine and add a cup to the veggies. It won't hurt if you add a tad more to the cup. Or if you drink a glass yourself. (It doesn't matter if it's only 4pm, you're working hard ok?!) Let this cook until the wine is reduced by half. This doesn't take long in cast iron, it took about 5 minutes for me.

Add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and stir it up. It'll give the mix a nice red color.
Add your seared meat back to the pot now. I just set them right in on top of the veggies.

Pour beef broth over the top until they're about  covered. For me, that took a little less than 3 cups. I peeked at the pot about half way through the cooking time and there was still plenty of liquid.

Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. We're late night eaters. We frequently stay up until midnight, so starting at 4:30pm I had this simmering by 5pm. I let it cook until 8pm, when I looked at the dish the meat was already off the bone. Yum.

I removed the meat to a small dish and put it in a warm oven to rest. Then turn the heat up on the pot of leftover juice and heat it until it reduces to a sauce. Have patience, it may take a while.

We ate this with some Red Wine Risotto and broccoli, with the sauce over the meat and rice. I paired it with a glass of the Pinot Noir I used to cook it. It was amazing. Cheers!

Red Wine Risotto

I've made risotto with some success in the past, so I thought it would be a good addition to the Osso Bucco I was preparing for dinner tonight. I usually make this with chicken broth and white wine, with some Parmesan cheese added at the end. One problem...I don't have any chicken broth today. Or any white wine for that matter. I do have beef broth and red wine though...so we're going to experiment.

Melt some butter in a pan and add some minced onion. I used about 3 tablespoons. Make it easy on yourself, grab some chopped frozen onion and then just mince that. Let it saute until translucent and add the rice. You're not trying to brown the rice here, you just want to get a good coating of butter and let it heat up a little. Add 1/3 cup of red wine. Stir it in and let it absorb completely. Then start adding your beef broth. You want to have at least 2 cups of broth simmering as you're preparing this. You want to add the hot broth a little at a time, stir, let it absorb, then repeat. It a process but it's worth it. You have to keep stirring. That's how your rice will get that creamy texture. If the rice is not soft enough when your broth is gone, use hot water. I usually put a cup in the microwave during my last 5 minutes or so, just in case. In today's instance, I used a full cup of water after my 2 cups of beef broth.

Remove from heat and add your cheese. A half a cup can be a bit much, so you may want to start with a quarter cup and increase if you so desire.

I was really pleased with how this came out tasting. It looks weird due to the purple wine and the brown broth, but it tastes quite good!