Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Three- Three French Hens

Perry Como singing The 12 Days of Christmas.  Because sometimes, Christmas should be delightfully laid-back.

And laid-back is exactly how I felt after making the following deliciousness.  Laid-back.  And full.  Very full.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens...

On the third day of Christmas, I made Stuffed Cornish Hens.
(serves 4)*

1 pkg long grain and wild rice mix
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbs butter, divided
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 4 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
4 Cornish game hens

Cook the rice according to the box directions.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Saute the celery and onion in 1 tbs butter until soft.

Combine celery and onion mix, cooked rice, soup, and mushrooms in a bowl.

Sprinkle salt and pepper both on and inside each hen.  Stuff with rice mixture, which is, by the way, extremely delicious.

Place in a greased roasting pan.  If you have a roasting pan with a rack, use that.  I do not.

Cover with foil or with the roasting pan's lid.  Bake for 40 minutes.

Melt the remaining 1 tbs butter.  Remove the foil/lid from the pan and brush the melted butter over the hens.  Bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the temperature of the hens is 180 F and the stuffing is 165 F.

Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

*The original recipe calls for 6 hens, but I only made 4.  Since I still made the same amount of stuffing, I had some left over.  I baked that along with the hens in a separate Corningware dish and had it on the side.  Excellent, excellent idea.

... two turtledoves...

... and a partridge in a pear tree.

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Two- Two Turtledoves

To start out, a lovely, fun rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtledoves...

For the second day of Christmas, I made Turtle Fudge.
from Diana's Kitchen
(serves rather a lot)

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 small can (5 oz) evaporated milk (Note: I couldn't find this, so I estimated a little less than half of a 12 oz can)
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
30 caramels, cut in squares (I had a bag of caramel chips that I never used for another project, so I just used these)
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
1 c. pecan halves
1 tsp vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue boiling, still stirring constantly, over medium heat until the temperature reaches soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (234-240 F).

Remove from heat.

Add chocolate chips, stirring until melted.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until well combined.  Pour into a greased 13x9x2 baking pan.  Cool to room temperature and cut into square.

**This recipe didn't work out the greatest for me.  I'm not sure what happened exactly, as I've successfully made fudge several times before.  The texture turned out oddly, but the taste is still good, so... oh well.  I'll still eat it.

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day One- Partridge in a Pear Tree

To introduce this segment, let me explain.  A few weeks before Christmas, I devised the grand scheme that it would be a fun idea to cook the 12 Days of Christmas.  Unfortunately, a few days later, I realized that we would be in Cleveland for Christmas, at Alec's parents' house.  Where, granted, there is a fully-equipped kitchen.  But... honestly, we really didn't spend that much time at the house.  Because there are a ton of delicious places to eat in Cleveland!

I tried to resign myself to the fact that I would wait till next year to undertake this project.  But, really?  I can't wait for anything.  So I just started late, and am currently working on catching up to where we are now: Day 5.

One thing I learned early on in this challenge is that the 12 Days of Christmas start on or after Christmas, depending on the tradition.  I'd always lived under the assumption that they were the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but no!  For the sake of catching up, I'm going to say that my 12 days started on the 26th of December.  The 12 Days is also known as Christmastide or Twelvetide, and marks the period leading up to the Feat of Epiphany on January 6th.

To start this out right, here's one of my favorite renditions of The 12 Days of Christmas, John Denver and the Muppets!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...

For the first day of Christmas, I made Wine-Poached Pears with Honey, Ginger, and Cinnamon Syrup, in a Phyllo Cup.
from Food Network
Serves 4

1 750 ml bottle Moscato wine
2 c. simple syrup (2 c. sugar + 2 c. water, brought to a boil and simmered 5 minutes, till sugar dissolves)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tbs honey
1 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled

3 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 c. melted butter
2 tbs cinnamon sugar

Vanilla ice cream, if you want (and why wouldn't you?)

In a large saucepan, combine wine, syrup, cinnamon sticks, honey, and ginger.  Scrape in the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean, then add the vanilla bean in too.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until honey has melted.  Add in the pears and simmer, turning occasionally, until tender.  The original recipe claimed 15-20 minutes, but my pears were rather large, so it took longer.  Pierce with a fork to test tenderness.

 Remove the pears and allow to cool.  I put them in the fridge for later.

Continue to simmer the liquid until it thickens significantly, darkens, and is reduced by at least half.  Again, the original recipe said 15-20 minutes, but mine was not nearly thick enough by then. It should be a definite syrup-y consistency.  Strain the solids from the mixture and cool to room temperature.  Again, I stuck this in the fridge for later.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

For the phyllo cups, you will need to thaw the phyllo sheets according to the box directions.  Stack the layers carefully, brushing each layer of dough with the melted butter and sprinkling with the cinnamon sugar.  Cut into quarters, so you have four rectangles of dough.  Place four custard cups face down on a baking sheet and grease tops and sides.  Hopefully you, unlike me, have custard cups of the same size.  If not, oh well.  Drape the phyllo rectangles over the cups.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the phyllo cups from the custard cups.  Let cool completely.

To assemble, place a pear in the middle of each phyllo cup.  Spoon as much syrup as you want over the pear.  Add ice cream, as desired.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beggar's Alley

If you're into St. Louis burlesque, you've probably heard of the Beggar's Carnivale.  It's a truly wonderful vaudeville/burlesque show and carnival, complete with a live band, out-of-town guest performers, vendors, and a hoochie-coo tent with sexy and dangerous sideshow acts!  When it first started, it was a monthly event held at 2720 Cherokee.  But, as it has grown in both size and popularity, the Carnivale has moved to the historic Casa Loma Ballroom and now takes place every other month.  This month, it happens to fall on New Year's Eve, and there is a huge New Year's Ball in the works!

It's an incredibly fun and unique event that I definitely recommend checking out.  Also?  I sell cupcakes (and assorted sweets) there as one of the vendors!  It's been a great opportunity to try out new flavors, do some experimenting, and really, it's helped to improve my decorating skills.

But why do I bring up Beggars?  Well, funny you should ask.  This weekend, there is a special Beggar's Alley show, featuring the sideshow acts usually kept safely away in the hoochie-coo tent.  Plus, you can see the show for only $5!  You'll have plenty of money left over to buy a cupcake or two.  I just know it.

The show starts at 9 on Friday at El Lenador.  You can find more information, including a list of performers, here.

Vagabond Opera, featured guest performers at the October Beggar's.  So good I bought a CD!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hot Dates on Nights Alone

Simply because my husband works most nights (and I'm stuck at home with no car) does not mean I don't have incredibly hot dates.  They just happen to be with my kitchen stove.

You sexy beast, you.
The past two days, we've spent a lot of time together.  My goal for this year is to make a lot of edible Christmas gifts.  (My other goal is not to keep all of them for myself.  In my stomach.)  I'm currently working on making a blackberry-infused vodka, and yesterday I made two kinds of jam, and applesauce.  Well, the applesauce is for me.  Hey, it's not my fault that it doesn't keep very long.

Today, I fell a little bit more in love.

Why, you ask?  How could you fall even more in love with cooking?

Several reasons.

1) I'm continually finding new and amazing ways to enjoy pumpkin through the last vestiges of fall.
2) I caramelized onions for the first time.

Enough said.

I made Bacon and Pumpkin Pasta, and it was delicious.  Thank you, Pinch of Yum.  Thank you.  This is a thick, creamy, filling pasta.  And it has bacon.  I for one, needed nothing more to be said.  And for those among you who think that pumpkin and pasta should definitely not go together?  Well, you may be crazy.  And you also may not have heard the word "bacon."

Not just for pies, friends.

Bacon and Pumpkin Pasta, with Caramelized Onions
adapted from Pinch of Yum
(tripled original recipe to serve 6, because who doesn't love leftovers?)

6 c. dried pasta (original recipe called for shells, but I didn't have any and used rotini)
1 can pumpkin puree
4 oz cream cheese
3/4 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 c. cooked, crumbled bacon
2 small-medium onions, caramelized*

*Original recipe suggests sliced scallions or green onions (would need 3/4 c. to go with above proportions), but I really, really loved the buttery sweetness of the caramelized onions.  For me, it made the dish.

Cook pasta according to packaging, drain, and return to pot.  Turn heat to low.

Stir in pumpkin, cream cheese, evaporated milk, heavy cream, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir over low until cream cheese has melted.  Top with the bacon and onions.

For leftovers, keep the bacon and onions in separate airtight containers to maintain crispiness.

Tolstoy also approves this recipe.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Belated Cupcakes

This is not to say that I have any cupcakes lying about, going stale.  Because that really never happens in this house.  This is just to say that I really did mean to post this brilliant, life-changing recipe a week or so ago.

But, well, curling up in a chair with a blanket and some cider was really much more appealing.  Sorry.

However, I'm here now, with the recipe for the completely delicious, so-close-to-being-my-new-favorite cupcake, Fauxstess Cupcake.

Now, I did a lot of research for these.  I was commissioned to make them (and two other types of cupcake) for my friend Jessica's birthday party, and I wanted them to be just right.  I settled on separate recipes for the cake, the filling, and the ganache, because I was never satisfied with one complete "hostess" cupcake recipe.  For the cake, I used Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake.  I found the type of cream filling I was looking for in a discussion board on Chef Talk, and a basic ganache on Joy of Baking (wherein I learned that to get a dark and shiny ganache, you simply add in a bit of corn syrup).

I like to think that the result was completely delicious.  Everyone else seemed to agree, as they were the first to disappear at the party.  And by first, I mean within the first five minutes.

"Fauxstess" Cupcakes
from Hershey'sChef Talk, and Joy of Baking
(makes 24 cupcakes)


2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake try with liners.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat with a mixer on medium speed until combined (about 2 minutes).  Stir in the boiling water until completely incorporated.  The batter will be very thin.  

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.

Bake 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in try 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.  Let cool completely.

Cream Filling:*
2 tsp hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1 7 oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 c. shortening
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp clear vanilla

Combine hot water and salt in a small container, set aside.

Mix together marshmallow creme, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla combined and no longer sticky.  Mix in salt water.

When cupcakes are cool, put filling in an icing bag fitted with a medium to large tip.  Insert the decorating tip into the middle of the cupcake and fill with the cream filling.  Be careful not to overfill, or the cupcake will begin to crack!

Reserve remaining cream filling to make the signature swoops on the top.

*Note: I would double this amount next time, as I didn't have quite enough to fill and ice all 24 cupcakes.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or, even easier, processed in a blender or food processor)
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs corn syrup

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring just to boiling point, then immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let stand for several minutes, then stir gently until smooth.  Add corn syrup for that shiny glaze look.

When slightly cooled (but not too thick!), spoon the ganache on top of the cupcakes and spread carefully to cover.  It should not be dripping down the sides (unless, of course, that's what you're into).

Once set, use the reserved cream filling (refitted with a small round decorating tip) to pipe swoops on top of the ganache.

Enjoy.  Because oh, you will.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Also, Extravaganza

As many of you may know, this past month featured the 4th Annual Michelle Mynx Pole Dancing Extravaganza!

It was my second year performing, third year attending, and it was just as good as any other year.  I performed my own compilation of two Frank Sinatra songs: "I've Got the World on a String" and "Come Fly with Me," and learned a great deal in the process.

1) How to mix music.
2) How to compress music files.
3) How to alter a men's shirt into a woman's halter top and add trim and sequins, all by hand.
4) How to get over big ambitions to make something work (though I really thought I'd learned this before).
5) How to stop worrying and love the bomb... er... how to stop worrying and just dance, because there's nothing left to do.

And now, for photos.

Photo Courtesy of Virginia C. Harold

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman
Favorite Photo, Courtesy of Ricky Shermam

Fall Pros and Cons... But Mostly Pros

It's been a beautiful fall. To be honest, fall is one of my favorite times. The cooler weather, the leaves changing, and, of course, the baking. The cooking. The fall vegetables. The applesauce. The cider. The pumpkin and black bean chili that is currently simmering in the kitchen.

I may not be the biggest fan of Halloween, but everything else? Adore. Did I mention soups? Sweet potato pie?


Oh yeah, and the Cardinals just won the World Series!

So the cons?

Well, I'm currently home sick in my pajamas. Fall, with its wonderful cooler weather and beautiful changing leaves, wreaks havoc on my sinuses. So, there's that.

But there's still soup. And pie. And chocolate tarts. And curling up with blankets and nooks and puppies.

So... I call it a win, overall. Especially once my nose stops running.

Note: Though I may not love Halloween, I love dressing up.  Alec and I went as an adventuring steampunk couple this year, and I made correspondingly extravagant cookie cupcakes.

"Gear" cookie cupcakes!

Got to play beer pong for the first time.  Lutheran Beer Pong.

Please ignore the caveman in the background.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kitchen Therapy

This has, for some reason, been a terrible week.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm coming off of the Extravaganza weekend (which was not terrible at all, but amazing, in spite of an entire lack of sleep), or if it's because I've just been overdoing it for quite a while.  I have no energy, my allergies have been flaring up with no warning, and my motivation levels are bottoming out.  There have been an obscene number of 3 hour long puppy naps.  And I have to work this weekend.  And Alec is coming down sick again.

And.  And.  And.

It was time for some therapy.  And since I'm without a car tonight and can't go shopping for books, I retreated to the kitchen, wherein magical things happen.  And even if I'll still be tired at the end of the night, at least I won't be hungry.

And honestly, I do feel better.  There's something about the prep work of cooking, about deciding that what this dish really needs is mushrooms.  There's something about a KitchenAid mixer, and about the feel of soft cookie dough in my fingers, and about the delightful way cookies line up on a baking sheet.  You can't be sad when you pull a perfect tray of cookies out of the oven.

And, of course, an oven that works helps too!  (It's so shiny.)

All in all, I feel better.  Plus, I'm full of cookies.  So there can't be anything wrong with that.

I may just be ready to face Friday.  Especially since the last Food Truck Friday of the season is tomorrow!

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Not Having Willpower

Well... it's been a long time.

To be honest, this is my constant curse about taking up long-term projects.  Or hairstyles.  I get distracted.  Or I lose the enthusiasm I had when I started.  I'm excellent at making excuses.

My lack of stick-to-it-ivness is one reason Alec was very hesitant for me to get my own pole two years ago.  I had been taking classes for a few months, and since that's on the high end of my time limit for new projects, he didn't want me making a big investment on something I was going to get bored with in a matter of weeks.

And yet, here I am, over two years later, and still going.  Now, admittedly, I don't practice at much as I should at home.  The pole is generally more of a big, shiny fixture in the middle of what would normally be a dining room.  But there hasn't been a month that I've skipped.  It's probably my longest-lasting hobby, next to reading, writing, and cooking.

A lot of that has to do with the huge group of friends that exists within the pole community here.  While other activities are solo projects, or done with one or two others, the circle of friends I've met through pole is huge. We go to shows together, have parties together, and just hang out.  We make use of each other's various talents, and we support each other's endeavors.  It's an amazing group of boys and girls of so many different backgrounds.  For me, at least, the pole community provides the perfect level of competition (i.e. 'I can't stop going to class or I'll be so far behind everyone else'), as well as the reminder that everyone has their strong suits and problem areas.

In other news, I've been baking for burlesque all over the place: Beggar's Carnivale as usual, as well as adding in the Randy Dandies, who have moved their show to 2720 Cherokee and who just put on another delightful Choose Your Own Adventure Show.  (This one was a nautical adventure theme, so of course I highly approved.)

I'll also be selling alcoholic/autumn-themed cupcakes at the upcoming First Annual Pumpkin Patch Ball at the Third Degree Glass Factory.  It looks like it's going to be an amazing event, and I'll be trying out some brand new recipes!

And, finally, I'll try to update a bit more often.  Really, I will.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Scream, You Scream...

I believe I promised ice cream.

It's still summer, in case you hadn't noticed, so there's still plenty of time to make some ice cream.  In fact, it's one of my new obsessions.  As I mentioned in the last post, I just bought an ice cream recipe book, and then this past weekend on The Splendid Table, there was an interview with a woman who just came out with another ice cream book.  It's fate.

Beautiful, creamy, cold fate.

Perfectly Smooth Raspberry Ice Cream
adapted, but only in the finishing stages, from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook- I promise, I'll have recipes from other books, eventually...
(Makes about 4 cups)

"While Harry is having a very unpleasant conversation with a pale blonde boy at Madam Malkin's (he reminds Harry of a skinny version of Dudley), Hagrid comes to the window and holds up this treat to show Harry.  When Harry's done being measured, he's relieved to escape the shop and enjoy a delicious ice cream cone (see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 5)."

12 oz fresh raspberries (you can use frozen, but thaw first!)
3/4 c. sugar, divided
1 c. heavy cream
2 c. whole milk
4 large egg yolks.

Process raspberries with 1/4 c. of the sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Place a sieve over a bowl.  Pour the raspberry mixture into the sieve and push it through with a rubber spatula, squeezing out as much juice as possible.  (This is both fun and frustrating, as the seeds rather get in the way).  Discard the leftover solids.

This is what it should look like, post-sieve.

Combine the heavy cream, milk, and the rest of the sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot but not bubbling.  It is important not to let this boil!

Have the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl.  Temper them (heat without cooking) by slowly pouring 1 c. of the hot milk mixture into the bowl while whisking constantly.  You want to keep the eggs moving and not get too hot or begin to cook.  Then you'll have cooked egg in your ice cream, and no one wants that.

Pour the egg mixture into the pot while whisking constantly.  Keep whisking over medium-high heat until it has thickened but before it begins to boil.  Pour the mixture through a sieve and into an airtight container.

Whisk in the raspberry mixture.  Lay a piece of cling wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Cool to room temperature.

At this point, if you have an ice cream machine, chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 6 hours, re-whisk to mix in any settled raspberry mixture, and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the directions.  Transfer back to the airtight container, and freeze until firm.  Then enjoy!

However, if you are like me and do not own an ice cream maker, don't fear.  You too can enjoy homemade ice cream!  Just stick your cooled ice cream mixture in the freezer and start checking it every hour or so.  Once it begins to freeze on the side, whisk it vigorously, and put it back in the freezer.  Continue doing this until completely frozen.  Then enjoy!

P.S. It goes excellently with some chocolate cake.

Just saying.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

SlutWalk Photos, Part 3... finally.

Too distracted to write an actual post, so I shall distract you with a final round of photos from last month's SlutWalk.  Because, well... why not?

You should all be looking forward to many ice cream recipes this summer, as the The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook has tons of delicious ice cream recipes, and I also just bought David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop, which includes such amazing titles as Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream and Margarita Granitas.  (I was on a quest for popsicle molds, and failed utterly... or did I?)

But, until then... photos!  These are mainly from the impromptu after party that took place at a bar in the Grove that was offering $1 drinks, with your first drink free.  Needless to say, I was tipsy before it was really a proper hour to be tipsy.

I feel so... overdressed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Food Truck Friday!

Well, I've returned home briefly to await the repairman.  Our air conditioning went out last night, and both we and the puppies are wilting.  At least I got to go to my overly air-conditioned office.

But now I'm back, and thinking back to Friday, when we purposefully went out in the St. Louis heat, with the puppies, to the Food Truck Friday event at Tower Grove Park.

Food Truck Friday is through the St Louis Food Truck Association, and I happened to hear about it at work on Friday.  After explaining to Alec what a food truck is (apparently in Cleveland they're called "roach coaches."  Ew.), we harnassed up the puppies and headed out.

Of course, now I really want a food truck.  More than before.

It was hard to decide what I wanted, but I finally settled on going to the Mangia truck and getting the Arancini.  Hamburger, pulled chicken and mozzarella surrounded by rice, breaded and deep-fried.  
So glad I picked this.

Yeah.  It was amazing.
What I really, really wanted was to go back to the Cake Stop truck and get a French Toast and Bacon cupcake.  But by the time I got through the Mangia line, they were sold out.  Sadness.

This was a wonderful event, with a ton of people and their dogs.  Next time, we'll remember to bring lawn chairs.  Also, hopefully, next time it will be cooler.  But I'm definitely going back, wherever they set up camp next!  Alec wasn't the happiest with his selection, but he definitely loved mine.

This is just more proof that St. Louis has an amazing food selection.  There were so many different types of food available, from falafels to pizza to dessert to Italian to Mexican.  Something for everyone, you might say.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot Chocolate, anyone?

It's hot out.  Really, really hot.  So hot that pole class last night was cancelled by unanimous vote because the studio was ridiculously hot.  The heat index has been over 100 degrees for the past week, I'm carrying on a love affair with each and every fan, and the puppies practically need a half-hour lie-down every time they go outside.

Oh, yes.  Puppies.  We are now foster parents to Madrid.  We picked her out on Tuesday from Stray Rescue so that they can continue to take in more stray dogs.  She's a complete sweetheart (though a little odd, just like Tolstoy).  We're working on finding a good home for her, so you should certainly consider adopting!  Or fostering.  They have so many dogs that need homes, both temporary and forever.

That would be Tolstoy, panting at her.

So sweet!

But, back to the fact that it is July in St. Louis.  So why, oh why, would I even think about making hot chocolate?

 Well, 1) because Alec specifically requested it.  And 2) because it's really, really delicious.  In fact, you should probably go make some.  And then lay in front of a fan.  It'll be worth it.

Hot Chocolate
(claims to serve 4, but we happen to really like hot chocolate...)

"After Harry's been spirited away in Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia to the Burrow, he enjoys the rest of summer vacation with Ron.  On the last night before the start of term, he digs into a fabulous dinner prepared by fabulous cook Mrs. Weasley, finishing off with dessert and hot chocolate (see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 5)."

1/2 c. water
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee
2 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 c. whole milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream, optional, for serving
Unsweetened cocoa powder, optional, for serving

Combine the water, sugar, cocoa powder, and coffee in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high, whisking continually, until hot and bubbling.  

Remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate until the mixture is smooth.

Return to the heat and add milk, stirring until heated through.  Do not let boil.  You do not want to scald the milk, just to warm it.

Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla.

Pour immediately into serving sizes of your choice (the bigger the better, in my opinion).  You can top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder, but I never get around to it...