Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Copycat Starbucks Peppermint Mocha

It's officially my favorite time of the year....the Christmas season!  We decorated the day after Thanksgiving and I'm enjoying the festive white lights every evening.  My perfect winter drink is a Starbuck's Peppermint Mocha.  But, when I'm cozy at home and it's cold outside, I don't always want to bundle up and head out for coffee.  I was excited when I came across a copycat recipe I could make at home, and I was even more excited when I tried it!  It's so close the real thing (and a lot less expensive, too!) 

You will need to purchase Starbuck's Peppermint Syrup.  You can buy a very large bottle of peppermint syrup at Starbucks for $7.99.  Just ask at the drive-thru or counter and as long as they have enough bottles in stock, they will sell you one.

3 tablespoons powdered rich hot cocoa (I use Ghirardelli hot chocolate)
3 tablespoons hot water
1 1/2 tablespoons peppermint syrup (Do not try to substitute mint extract.)
1 serving of espresso (I use our small stovetop Bialetti to prepare the espresso)
1 small mug of warm 1% milk (I just heat it up in the microwave)
whipped cream
red sugar crystals

Warm the milk in the microwave in a small mug or on the stovetop.
Place hot cocoa powder in the bottom of a large mug.  Add the hot water and stir to combine well, dissolve the hot cocoa powder, and make a thick chocolate syrup.  Stir in the espresso.  Add the warm milk & peppermint syrup and stir together.
If you want to make your drink more festive, add whipped cream & sprinkle with red sugar crystals. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Food For Friday: Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu

This recipe for Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu is a lighter, homemade version of a popular dish.  It's a perfect warm comfort food for the cooler days of fall and the cold days of winter.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
shredded Swiss cheese (could also substitute Gruyere)
8-12 thin slices of deli ham
2 tsp. thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs (I used homemade bread crumbs that I chopped in the food processor)
1 tsp. olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup half & half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts between two layers of plastic wrap and place on top of a cutting board.  Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently flatten the chicken to 1/4 inch thickness.  Be careful not too pound too hard and create tears or holes in the chicken breasts.  Remove the top piece of plastic wrap.

Pile a small handful of the shredded Swiss cheese in the middle of each flattened chicken breast.  Top with 2-3 slices of deli ham.  Leave a 1/2 inch margin on all sides to help seal the roll.
Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll it up from one end to the other,tight like a jelly roll.  Squeeze the roll gently to seal.  Don't worry if a little bit of the filling peaks out after you roll up the chicken breast.
Prepare the ingredients for the breading.  Season the flour with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and spread out on a plate or in a flat dish.  Place the half & half and the eggs in a bowl and beat them together with a fork.  (I was out of eggs, so I improvised and used just the half & half.  It worked just fine!)  In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, thyme, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and olive oil.  Line up the ingredients in the order of flour, half & half mixture and breadcrumb mixture.
Roll the chicken in the flour to coat, dip both sides in the egg mixture to coat well, and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture until coated.  Place in a glass baking dish coated with nonstick spray.  Repeat with the remaining 3 rolled chicken breasts.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the breading is slightly browned and the chicken is cooked through.  (Juices should run clear.)
We served our Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu with roasted organic fingerling potatoes.  Spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and place potatoes on it.  Spray potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary and/or thyme.  (Dried rosemary and thyme work fine as well.)  Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and fork tender. 
I adapted the Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu from a recipe posted on My Sweet Savannah.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend to Remember

Earlier this month, we got away for a weekend in Vail to attend the Weekend to Remember marriage retreat.  It is a weekend conference to be encouraged in your marriage, spend some time focusing on your relationship, and relax and connect as a couple.  We got engaged in Vail, so we thought it would be the perfect location to return to for a Weekend to Remember getaway. 
The conference gets an amazing deal on the Vail Marriott Resort and they have some of the comfiest hotel beds I've ever slept in.  I can rarely sleep in hotel beds, but I slept wonderfully in this one!
Vail is beautiful any time of the year, but we got lucky and fall lingered a little longer than usual in the mountains this October.  The leaves were brilliant and we enjoyed perfect, warm, sunny afternoons that we took advantage of to wander around Vail Village during our breaks.
On Saturday night, the conference schedules a date night and you have the entire evening off for a fun night together.  We decided to return to Kelly Liken, the restaurant we ate at after we got engaged, for a special dinner.
If you happen to be Top Chef fans like we are, you might recognize Kelly Liken from this past season of Top Chef, Washington DC.  We asked her husband Rick to send a message back to her in the kitchen and let her know that we had rooted for her on Top Chef.  She was sweet enough to come out just before we left to say hi and congratulate us on 3 1/2 years of marriage (even though it was a full house and she was busy in the kitchen.)  She even snapped a photo with us.
At the end of our weekend, we returned to the bench where we got engaged almost 4 years ago!  It's the first time we've been back since the day we got engaged.  Our spot looks different when it isn't covered with snow and ice. 
We shared some sweet time reading each other letters reflecting on the last 4 years and the blessings we've experienced in each other and in our marriage.  We had a wonderful weekend!

When was the last time you took some intentional time away with your husband or wife?  Your marriage is worth the investment!  I think it's so important to take time to focus on your marriage and on your spouse, to remember all of the reasons that you love and appreciate each other, and to talk about the ways that you desire to continue to grow in loving each other well through changing seasons of life.  The Weekend to Remember marriage getaways are a perfect opportunity to do just that.  They offer hundreds of retreats all across the US.  If you ever want to getaway with your spouse at a Weekend to Remember, message me and I can even share a discount code with you!  The retreats are put on by Family Life, a ministry of the organization that we work for.