Homemade Hot Chocolate

On Monday night Christmas Vacation was on TV. It's been years since I've seen it, and it turns out, I still know all the lines by heart.


"Where you gonna put a tree that big, Griswold?"

"Bend over and I'll show you!"

John and I had kind of a Rockwell evening. We wrapped Christmas presents and drank hot chocolate while we watched the movie.

This is a slightly altered version of Ina Garten's hot chocolate recipe.
I didn't use as much cream, I only used 4 oz of chocolate (instead of 8, which would have been so many!), and I definitely didn't use a whole vanilla bean for a garnish (I'm not an independently wealthy woman from the Hamptons with fabulous florist friends to hang out with while my husband works all day in the city). Even using skim milk like I did, this was extremely rich and creamy hot chocolate.
John's reaction: "I wish it were a little sweeter. I'm going to get a refill."

Next time I'd maybe add a little more sugar, or use less bittersweet chocolate, but I'm sure I'll make it again.

Here's the recipe as I made it. This makes 8 posts of holiday baking!

Creamy Hot Chocolate

3 cups skim milk
1 cup cream or half-and-half
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon**

Bring the milk and cream to a simmer in a sauce pan, then remove from heat.
Immediately add in the chocolate and stir until it melts.
Stir in sugar, vanilla, and spices.
Serve in mugs with whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, or garnish of your choice.

*Remember how I said we're experimenting with the manual settings on the camera? All of these pictures look a little like they were taken as if the July sun was beating down on my kitchen...But we're getting better.

**You could also add nutmeg, or leave the spices out.


Pumpkin Scones

Remember when I asked for suggestions for my left-over pumpkin puree? I found a scone recipe to fill the need.

This was my second attempt at scones, and I think I'm getting the hang of the shape, if I do say so myself. I thought the dough was going to be too dry to come together, but right before I reached for the extra tbs of cream or milk, it started to take shape.

This is the 7th post in my series of holiday recipes. I still want to make gingerbread and iced sugar cookies, so there are at least 2 more, though I may wait until we're in Fort Wayne over Christmas to make those. Once I've exhausted the holiday baking topic I'll make sure to post links to all the entries in the same place. If you're interested (and I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat), I've started labeling them as such for your convenience.

Side note: I'm now looking for a good bread pudding recipe. It need not be holiday specific, though I associate bread pudding with Christmas. If you have one, please send it my way (I'm looking at you, Uncle Kim).

These scones are pretty tasty. The pumpkin changed the texture just a little to make them a little less bready in the center. I'm excited to keep trying scone recipes!

Pumpkin Scones

from Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea

2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin (if canned, be sure there are no spices or sugar added)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into flour. Mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl mix together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together (don't over mix).

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gently 3-4 times, and then shape/pat dough into a circle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Slice in half, and then cut each half into 3 equal pie-shaped wedges. Brush with egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk), and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.*

Bake on a cookie sheet for at 375° F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 6 scones.

*Oops, I forgot.


Veg Out!

I like the idea of writing on this blog about local restaurants, from time to time. Today during our errand running marathon John and I took a break to eat lunch at Veg Out, a vegan restaurant near downtown London.

I wanted to order pretty much everything on the menu. John said the "fish" (tofu) and chips were really good.

It was a little bit like Runciple Spoon in Bloomington.

Unfortunately, it was also similar to the Spoon in that the service was pretty bad.

So bad in fact that we had plenty of time to play with my camera and take lots of pictures.

Look how John's skin is a similar color to that of the wall.

John managed to take a cool picture of my water glass.

That's talent.

You know John is bored when he turns on the color swap option on the camera.

Meanwhile, our food finally came.

John got the black bean burger with caramelized onions and guacamole.

I got the Thai Peanut Power Bowl (chickpeas, sweet potatoes, other veggies, quinoa, and a peanut sauce), with a side of avocado toast.

My food was really good, but the service was kind of awful. I'd give it another chance and probably order something else. The Thai Peanut bowl was ok, but not that impressive. I smelled the squash and coconut soup at the next table over and regretted not ordering it. John says the service was much better the other time he was there, and it was an impressive menu.

I'd give it a B+ and try it again.


On Saturday John and I did a whole afternoon of errands and Christmas shopping. We decided to have lunch at a place near downtown called Veg Out, which I'll tell you all about in another post.

We went to Chapters, a Canadian version of Borders, to look for a couple of presents.

They had a really nice cook book section,

and a Lego book that John really liked.

Chapters is a chain, but only in this part of Canada (from what I can tell). It's like Borders, but with a tad more emphasis on local authors and other Canadian things.

And, well, Starbucks.

Steak with Green Beans, Goat Cheese Grits, and Roasted Garlic

Sometimes over the weekend we make larger, more involved meals.

Thanks for being patient while John and I learn about different levels of exposure on our camera's manual setting.

We bought a big package of steaks at Costco last month, cut them up, and froze them. Last night we defrosted these two to be the main event in tonight's dinner.

The green beans came from Costco, too, in a GIANT two pack (like everything there, I guess). We just steamed them on a stove top.

At the regular grocery store we bought two five-packs of garlic (way cheap!) and I roasted five of them in the oven. I think I'll remember this semester as the time I finally figured out how to roast garlic. Not that it's hard, but it was one of those things I always put off trying. Until now. I just squish them a little once they're done, and spread them on whatever I'm eating.

In case you're wondering, roasted garlic goes really well with grits. The grits John and I have are from a farm in Tennessee, part of the agro-tourism business, and they're stone ground. I got the idea to add goat cheese to them from Pioneer Woman's recipe for polenta, only I got away with adding only about 1 tbs. butter, and probably a 1/4 cup goat cheese (maybe a 1/3 cup, I just scooped it out of the package). I normally make grits with a lot more fat, but these were really flavorful with the goat cheese. Dinner like this always makes us feel like we're being luxurious, and we don't even have to go out.

Here's the recipe for the grits:

1 cup stone-ground grits.
2 cups water
1 cup skim milk
1 tbs butter
1/3 cup goat cheese (use more or less to taste)

- Bring the milk and water to a boil in a sauce pan.
- Meanwhile, if you really use stone ground grits, soak them for a few minutes in water to remove the bran.
- Once the liquids are boiling, add the grits, and stir.
- Reduce heat to a slight simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes (or until water is absorbed), stirring frequently.
- Stir grits, add in 1 tbs butter, and add in goat cheese. Continue to stir until butter and cheese are melted.

The steaks we just seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Then we cooked them about 6-7 minutes per side, using the broiler in our oven.
Roasted garlic:

Heat oven to 400 F.
Cut the tops off the garlic so that the top of each clove is somewhat exposed.
Place in a pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and roast for 30-35 minutes.
Spread on whatever your heart desires.


Pumpkin Cookies with Butter Cream Icing

For the sixth part of my series of posts on holiday baking I decided to make pumpkin cookies.

My Uncle Kim suggested pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips and a cream cheese frosting. Tonight's recipe was limited to what I had on hand, which did not include chocolate chips or
cream cheese.

But these were amazing! The butter cream went really well with them, and they tasted like mini pumpkin pies.

As you can see, I got a little happy with the tips from my Martha Stewart Cake Decorating Kit. I think this tip would be really good for cupcakes.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies
from Cook Like a Champion

Iced Pumpkin Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves *

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
You can substitute 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

-Preheat oven to 350°.
-Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt; set aside.
-Cream butter and sugars; add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.
-Gradually mix in dry ingredients.
-Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten the tops slightly.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes.
-While cookies are baking, prepare icing by combining cream cheese and powdered sugar in an electric mixer until creamy. For extra flavor, add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to the icing.
-Once cookies are cool, drizzle with icing and enjoy!


Getting to the conference

N.B. This entry is double posted here.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 54th annual meeting of the Society of Ethnomusicology in Mexico City. While there, I presented a paper and chaired a panel on, you guessed it, ethnographies of western art music. Very cool, in a nerdy I can't wait to read more scholarship way. What can I say? I'm a professional nerd.

At this point, I'd like to emphasize that I actually made it to the conference, and had an amazing time. But getting there, that's another story.

I had been excited about this trip since I found out that our panel was accepted, way back in June. My family helped pay for my airfare and hotel, and Western kicked in $500 for expenses. Mexico seemed in many ways a particularly (at the danger of sounding ethnocentric) exotic locale, and I was excited and nervous all at the same time. It was my first presentation at an international conference, my first time chairing a panel, and my first time in a Latin country. I was pumped.

And so, full of energy and ready to practice my 5th grade Spanish, I arrived at the local airport at 5:30 AM, ready to fly from London (Ontario) to Toronto and then on to Mexico City. I typed my ticket number into the electronic check in thingy, and nothing worked. I tried again, and again it failed. This has happened to me before, so I wasn't worried.

But then I looked at my ticket information and noticed, for the very first time, that my ticket was for the next Wednesday. I had bought a ticket for the wrong day.

As my stomach transformed into a soul devouring black hole, I walked to the ticket counter, hands shaking and informed the agent that I had made a terrible mistake. She confirmed that I had indeed purchased a ticket for the next week and that I may need to buy a whole new ticket. She also suggested that I contact Travelocity.

Over the course of the next forty minutes and after an additional $600, I obtained the correct ticket, and the very awesome crew at the Air Canada desk rushed me through security and onto the plane. I made it to the conference, roomed with my old prefessor and friend Les, and all in all had a great time.

I have some more thoughts on the conference and on the trip in general, but I think I'll wait to post them. Until then, here's to Travelocity, and thank god for credit cards.


Happy Thanksgiving, America!

Last year at this time, John and I were in Chicago, having Thanksgiving at my Aunt Becky's house. Canadian Thanksgiving happened last month, but here are some photo highlights from last year to remind us of what we're missing, and what we can be thankful for.

Those were in the days of our Epic Long Distance relationship, and Thanksgiving was the first of our holiday visits - usually a good time of year for long distance couples whose parents are nice enough to let them alternate visits so they can spend time together.

Becky lets her dog do the dishes so that everyone can take a post-Thanksgiving dinner nap.*

The infamous pie-tasting contest. It's more than famous - it's infamous.**

Oddly, they torture Canadians who have cable by showing American commercials for things they don't have here. Right now all the commercials are about American Thanksgiving. It's particularly cruel for us Americans living in Canada.

Think of this last one as a transitional photo, transitioning between Thanksgiving, Christmas, Nascar...

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Think of me when you have your second piece of pie. I'll tell everyone it was only your first.

*False, of course.

**That's right, it's a Three Amigos reference. You're welcome.

Pumpkin Ideas?

Tonight I decided to make pumpkin bread to take to my students on Friday, and to my History of Theory class tomorrow.

I made this pumpkin bread recipe, which I love dearly.

Here's the problem. I used a cup of a can of pureed pumpkin, leaving 20 oz to be used in another item. I've made a few other pumpkin foods this fall - muffins, cheesecake, and penne pasta - but I'd like to try something new, and I'm looking for suggestions.

What are you favorite pumpkin foods that can be made from 20 oz or less of pureed pumpkin? Brownies? A coffee cake? Do you know of a pumpkin scone recipe? Something savory?

If you have a suggestion, go ahead and leave me a comment, or email me at:

soundslikecanada at gmail dot com

(I've written it that way to avoid spam). I'll definitely give you credit for the suggestions you give me!

Thanks, readers!

I'm thinking of this pumpkin scone recipe. I think scones might be the way I want to go, but that still leaves 2 cups of pumpkin for other recipes. Keep 'em coming! Thanks for your help!


Spicy Taco Soup

Finals week is fast approaching and I wanted to make something that I could freeze, to keep on hand for a stressful time in the future. Taco soup is the perfect thing to freeze, and you can make it a hundred different ways.

This is based on a recipe that John's mom used to make, and that I've varied and changed for years. I've made it with ground beef, turkey, chicken, and tofu (the kind seasoned and prepared to behave like ground taco meat). This recipe can easily be made vegan, if you use tofu, vegetable stock, and leave out the ranch dressing packet.

The spiciness level is also totally adjustable. Ever since I started cooking stuff from Kira's blog, I really like using chipotle en adobo because of the smokey flavor. If you don't like the spicy kick of the green chiles, cayenne, or chipotle, just leave them out and you still have a pretty flavorful soup.

The original version of this called for a taco seasoning packet and a ranch dressing mix packet.
The ranch I couldn't find and sometimes leave out, on the grounds that it probably makes the soup healthier, and it tastes fine with out it. The taco seasoning I remember buying, but when it came time put it all together, it was nowhere to be found.

So I made it up (something I also often do when I'm making this soup on the fly). My version is noted in the ingredient list below.

In other news, I'm getting better at figuring out how to edit photos in iPhoto. Check out the difference between these two (original, dull one shown first).

Julie's Spicy Taco Soup

1 lb ground chicken, turkey, beef, or one package of soy ground.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock****
1 can each: black beans, red beans, white or pinto beans.
1 can whole kernal corn
3 chipotle peppers en adobo*
4 oz can of green chili peppers, chopped
1 can of tomales and green chiles (such as Rotel)**
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
packet of ranch dressing mix***

Brown the meat in a stock pot, then add onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add chicken or vegetable stock, stir, and cook 2 more minutes.
Add in beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, and chipotle en adobo.
Add spices, stir, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, or other toppings of your choice (corn bread is really great with this!).

*A jalapeno would also work well, if you have one on hand or want to add one. **I've also used 2-3 fresh or canned tomatoes, peeled or unpeeled. ***Optional ****I think the original recipe says water, but I like the taste of the stock better.


Molasses Spice Cookies

Moving on to the fifth installment of a series of posts about holiday baking. Here are links to one, two, three, and four.

I love any recipe that makes my house smell like Christmas, like the short bread cookies, and these do the trick. I don't think I liked molasses cookies when I was little, but I love them now.

These were soft and a little chewy. I spaced them a little close together, so they kind of melded together, but were easy to break apart again. Once again, the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook did exactly what I hoped. Also, this recipe can be made with light or brown molasses, which might save you from a special trip to the store.

I'm expecting to do at least one more post on these holiday cookies, since it wouldn't be Christmas without sugar cookies with colorful frosting, and I still want to try my hand at gingerbread. Hope you like them!

Molasses Spice Cookies

from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup light or dark molasses

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 F. Spread 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla until combined. Beat in the molasses until combined, scraping down the bowl and beaters are needed.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined (the dough will be soft).

4. Using wet hands,* roll 2 tbs of dough at a time into balls, then roll int he sugar to coat and lay on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2" apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and the tops are cracked but the centers are still soft and underdone, 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.

*Keeping my hands wet turned out to be important. As soon as they would dry, the dough would stick to them and I couldn't make it into a ball. But keeping my hands wet made it work perfectly.

Broccoli Stir Fry

Since John doesn't get back from Mexico until tomorrow, I wanted to make something for dinner that would be good for a couple of days and not involve a huge number of dishes.

And so I made this broccoli stir fry recipe from Kira's blog. As she points out, this is full of nutrients and vitamins. It was pretty good!

My one issue was that I don't have a large enough pan to cook all the ingredients and cover it with a lid (my biggest pan is missing its lid, it was inherited from an old TA who was moving out of Bloomington). Instead, I experimented with covering it with a cookie sheet and a cake pan, which worked better for steaming the veggies than you might expect. The issue was that the broccoli took longer to cook this way, and the peppers was a little flimsier than they should have been.

Still, the sauce was good and I think I'd make it again.


1 1/3cups uncooked regular long-grain white rice
2 2/3cups water

1/4cup water
2tablespoons soy sauce
1tablespoon hoisin sauce
2teaspoons cornstarch
1teaspoon honey

1(6-oz.) pkg. portobello mushroom caps**
1medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1garlic clove, minced
3cups fresh broccoli florets (about 6 oz.)
1/4cup water

1. Cook rice in 2 2/3 cups water as directed on package. Cover to keep warm.
2.Meanwhile, in small nonmetal bowl, combine all sauce ingredients; blend well. Set aside.
3.With small metal spoon, scrape underside of mushroom caps to remove dark gills and stems. Cut mushroom caps into 3/4-inch pieces.
4.Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes.
5.Add broccoli and 1/4 cup water; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add sauce; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly and thickened. Serve over rice.*

(Sorry the numbers are a little screwed up, but I trust that if you actually want to make this, you can read it well enough. I did).

*I think this would also work well with Asian noodles of some kind, but I'm not sure which.

**I used crimini because they were cheap and I needed a bunch of them for the second version of the quiche that I made last week. The flavor wasn't exactly the same, but it was still good!



Three of my Klickna-cousins had exciting news in the past week or so.

First, my cousin Jason is engaged. His dad, Uncle John, has been sick with cancer for a long time, and his fiance entered a contest to win a free wedding where she wrote an essay about how hard Jason works to take care of his dad.

And she won! A huge, beautiful wedding. I hope they pick somewhere exotic.

That's Jason on the right, and his sister Jessica on the left, and here with her dog.

Jess's news this week was that she passed the bar exam! YAY!

Here's my mom and her sister, Becky.

This photo was from the pie-tasting contest we used to have at Thanksgiving, where they would blind fold me and my cousins and make us try to guess which pies they made. I think my mom got it from Letterman.

Here's Becky with my cousin Halley, who also went to IU.

Last night, Halley and her boyfriend Josh got engaged!

Congrats, Halley and Josh!

They're getting married in 2 years, their 10th anniversary. My brother didn't get married until he and Nora had been dating 10 years, either. I'm hoping everyone will just accept this as a pattern, as it buys me some time.

And thanks, cousins, for not minding when I snag pictures from your facebook profiles without asking.

Cranberry and Raisin Scones

Welcome to installment #4 of a series of posts on holiday baking! In case you've missed any and would like to go back, there were the chocolate shortbreads, double chocolate cookies, and the real shortbread cookies.

[Cutting symmetrical shapes out of a circle isn't my strong suit...Shaping the dough into a rectangle and cutting it into triangles would have been way easier.]

Today's recipe is something of a departure. I decided to make scones, and after a brief search of blog recipes on my Google reader, I settled on a fairly simple one that allows you to add in any dried fruit or nut that you'd like. I added in a small handful each of dried cranberries and raisins.

These were really light and delicious. I know I sound like a little kid, but I ended up picking out a few of the raisins.

I was hoping I'd get to try out my new rolling pin for this recipe, but it just calls for you to pat the dough with your hands.

This is kind of a "fun sized" rolling pin, for someone with a tiny kitchen like me. I bought it at Jill's Table, a foodie store near Covent Garden, an indoor farmer's market downtown. They happened to be having their 10th Anniversary, so everything I bought was 10% off, AND, they gave me this great wooden spoon with their name on it:

Next time I go in I'm going to tell them about the blog...Maybe I can convince them to sponsor a giveaway or something. Just a write up about their store would be fun - it's really beautiful inside.

Raisin Scones
from Cherry on a Cake

2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup ground pecans or almonds
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
7 1/2 tbs butter
Almost 1 cup of heavy cream
1 egg

a handful of raisins or currants if you like. Or other dried fruits of your choice.

Sift flour and the baking powder and soda. Add salt, ground almonds and the sugar. Mix to incorporate the ingredients. Add the raisins if using.

Lightly beat egg in a measuring cup and add the heavy cream until it makes 1 cup of liquid.

Make sure the butter is very cold and cut it into smallish pieces. Put the butter in to the flour mixture and rub it in with your fingers very lightly or use 2 knives or a pastry cutter until it resembles coarsemeal or rough breadcrumbs. Its important to ensure that the butter doesn't melt and remain in small solid pieces so that the scones will be lifted up when the butter melts and its steam released while baking in the oven.

You may at this point chill the flour mixture in the freezer for 10 minutes if the kitchen is warm. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream egg mixture. Using a fork stir very quickly until the mixture comes together. then using you finger bring the dough together to form a ball without kneading. place on a floured surface and pat the dough down with your fingers to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cut into rounds.**

Bake at 200 C* for 10 - 12 mins. Best eaten warm with butter and jam and/or clotted cream.

*My oven has both marked on it, since I live in another country now and what not. I set it just below 400 F.

**Today I learned something important: scones get bigger as they bake. Next time I'll cut them into smaller pieces.