Monday, November 26, 2012

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Merry Christmas!

I have 2 secrets:

(1) I made these 2 years ago and never posted about them
(2) I'm actually writing this up at the end of May and it is currently 80 degrees outside.  You should be jealous.  Don't worry, I am too.

I wrote down all of the instructions on this blog after I finished making these Hot Chocolate Sticks, assuming I would get to adding pictures soon after.  It never happened.  Then today (May 20th, 2012) I noticed that there was still a draft hanging out on blogger.  So I figured, what the heck.  I love the schedule option on Blogger.

I needed something fast, cheap and easy to make for 2 dozen coworkers (this was back when I still made handmade gifts for them) and I found this great idea online to make Hot Chocolate on a Stick.  Basically, you make a chocolate lollipop and melt it in hot cream or milk, making a yummy cup of hot chocolate.  I thought I'd give it a shot.

Here's what you need:

  • a ziploc bag
  • lollipop sticks
  • an ice cube tray
  • 8 oz high quality chocolate (as you can tell, I used Ghiradelli.  Yum.)
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • white chocolate baking morsels
  • crushed peppermint candy

Melt the chocolate:

Sift the sugar and cocoa into a small bowl and set aside.

Break the chocolate into small pieces.

Heat some water to about 90 degrees (I don't know why this exact temperature is important, but I do know that chocolate can be fickle.) Place a bowl with the chocolate over the water.  (This method works so well that I will never buy a double boiler.)

Stir until 2/3 melted.

I must show you a step-by-step of this happening.  Makes me drool a little.  Especially considering that as I am writing this I am 33 weeks pregnant.

Take bowl off of water and continue stirring until completely melted. Make sure no water gets into the chocolate mixture at all. 

Slowly stir the cocoa/sugar mix and the pinch of salt into the melted chocolate until you get a smooth consistency.  If I remember this was a lot more difficult to do than it sounded.  I had to stir for quite a long time before the consistency was right.  I also used a whisk instead of a sifter which may not have made the cocoa/sugar mix as fine as it needed to be.  Since then I have acquired a sifter.  I would recommend you do the same if you don't have one.  :)

Fill the molds with Hot Chocolate Mix.

Spoon this into a ziploc bag.  

Cut the corner off.  This is such a great way to not only fill chocolate molds, but cupcake liners as well.  EASY TO CLEAN UP!

Fill the ice cube try with the chocolate; this recipe makes about 10 cubes. Shake the tray back and forth or tap it on the counter to make the tops even out.

Let the mix form:

Leave the ice cube tray for a minute or two. Now put one stick into each cube. Hold them for a second or two; they should stay in fairly easily. Leave the tray on the counter and let them harden for a few hours. After set, they should come out easily.

Decorate the hot chocolate sticks:

This part is optional.  I decided to dip these in melted white chocolate and crushed candy cane.  I also added a candy cane and a few Christmas themed marshmallows in the bag.

Make Hot Chocolate from the stick:

Pour 3/4 c of milk or milk with cream into a mug and heat in the microwave for 1 to 1-1/2 minute. You want it warm enough to melt the chocolate.  Don't forget to include instructions for the recipient as well!

I test-tasted one of these before handing them out.  It was a very rich cup of cocoa.  I think the only thing I would have changed is I would have used a sweeter chocolate to begin with.  But I prefer sweeter chocolate over bitter chocolate.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Checkerboard Sweet Potatoes

I made this dish for our family's pot-luck-style Thanksgiving last year.  It probably looked better than it tasted, but if you like your sweet potatoes a 'la casserole, then this one's for you.

Recipe from

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 20 marshmallows
  • 40 pecan halves


1. Cover sweet potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until knife-tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash potatoes with a potato masher, then stir in milk, butter, pineapple, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt.

2. Transfer mixture to a 2 1/2-quart oval casserole dish; smooth out top. Starting at the top left, alternate one marshmallow with two pecan halves until the entire casserole is covered. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until marshmallows are browned and puffed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

One of my very favorite parts of Thanksgiving Dinner is the Cranberry Sauce.  A few years ago we decided to be super-domestic and make our own from scratch.  Little did we know it was really very easy and there is something about saying you've made anything yourself.  So it continues to be a yearly tradition now.

Homemade Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
(Makes 2 1/4 cups)

Recipe from

1 c sugar
1 c water
1 12-oz. package Fresh Cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

That's it!  It is the easiest Thanksgiving recipe by far.  Try it!  You'll love it!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Homeschool Preschool

We had gone back and forth for several months trying to decide if/when we should enroll our daughter (3 yrs) in preschool.  One night while I was at work I was talking with a coworker about it and, while encouraging me to do what I thought was best, she told me of a time her mother had told her that children should be home with their moms, not in preschool.  It really struck a chord with me as I thought back to my own childhood.  I was never enrolled in a day of preschool and I learned so much about day to day life from my mom, particularly in my early years.

Now I won't get all preachy--especially considering that there are a lot of moms out there who do enroll their kids in preschool early and have great success at it (and we've already tentatively decided to do the same immediately before she goes to Kindergarten just to adjust her to the situation)--but it has been so nice having her home.  I haven't regretted our decision at all.

Obviously I feel like this puts a greater responsibility on her parents to teach her not only the ins and outs of life but also her ABCs and 123s.  I started doing homeschool preschool awhile ago (I blogged about it here or on my personal blog...I can't remember.)  But I thought I would share what I've done.

Basically, every week we choose a theme, find books at the library to go with that theme, a few new vocabulary words, a poem and song or two, and an art and science project to solidify the theme (science is my favorite part!)  We also learn a color, shape, number, and capital/lower case letter.

I made a poster that I found at this website to present all of the things she's learned through the week.  My daughter also loves to draw so I hung a clothesline for her drawings and school "assignments."

Here is how it looks at the end of the week.  Each unit has a different theme (I get most of my ideas here.)  This particular week was around Mother's Day and I chose a theme based on mothers.  (In this case we didn't have a rhyme that week so the color went on the purple square.  My OCD daughter can't have blank spaces.)

Here are some closeups of her work for the week.  These were 6 months ago.  She is freakishly good at drawing stick figure people and animals now.  I mentioned my mom is an artist.  I'm guessing those genes skipped a generation because, while I love arts and crafts and sewing and the like, I suck at drawing  people and animals. 

We took this hectic summer off and focused on worksheets from a preschool workbook.  I started up again the first week of traditional school for our area.  I started over at the letter A, choosing Airplanes for the theme (which was timely since her daddy was flying on an airplane that week for work), the number 0, etc.  The next week was the letter B for Birds, the number 1, etc.

I used to choose themes based on seasons, holidays, and events.  Now, it is a little easier to prepare with a systematic approach.  Plus, it is a whole lot easier to find books at the library about "eggs" while the whole community is scrambling for books about Halloween.

Each unit takes 2 weeks.  We aren't home every day and I don't generally do school on days that she has dance, toddler time, and church.  My work schedule has me home  through early afternoon so we usually have plenty of time to get ready for the day and do school as well.  It is especially nice having that mommy/daughter time on the days I have to go to work.

So there you have it.  She is having a lot of fun learning and I am having a lot of fun teaching her.   Plus, I'd like to think that I've done a little bit to help her to prepare for her academic future.