Where creativity grows

Category: The Artist’s Way

International Foodie Potluck

When we returned from Spain I was craving new food experiences and conversation with new people who shared my love of food, new recipes and travel. I have belonged to a local Facebook foodie group for a few years. So when I conjured up the idea of an international potluck, I asked them first if they would be interested. The idea was that everyone would bring a dish to pass that was representative of their heritage. 

The response to our invitation was small, but after all we were total strangers inviting other total strangers to our home. I’m not sure that I would have accepted the invite from someone else. I invited a couple of other friends and voila we had a group of seven people ready to share in some foodie funness.

We ended up with Italy, Germany, Poland and Mexico represented by our guests. One of our guests traveled all the way from Indiana and brought pierogi from a local favorite in her area called Dan’s Pierogies.  They were amazing! My husband especially liked the plum variety and I loved the sweet cheese one.  One guest made pasta carbonara, which was SO good. Then another guest made traditional enchiladas with red sauce and also a poblano cream sauce that she served with tortillas. YUMMO! 

My friend Gudrun introduced me to Obdatzda when I lived with her in Munich and I immediately fell in love with it. I found this recipe on Pinterest and it is easy to throw together. My husband doesn’t like raw onions, so I usually leave them on the side and people can add them as they like. I have made it both with camembert and brie and both are yummy. I serve it with Snyder’s Dipping Sticks, but you could serve it with any pretzel or bread.

My first choice for my entree was currywurst and German potato salad, but one of my guests was vegetarian. So I scoured the new German cookbooks I recently purchased for a good vegetarian option. I found a recipe for a mushroom goulash with dumplings and decided to try it. This was my first time ever trying to make bread dumplings (or any dumplings for that matter). I mixed up the bread and seasonings, rolled the dumplings and boiled them only to discover they were VERY moist and soggy. We decided to throw them in the oven to see if we could dry them out a bit and for the most part it worked. The mushroom goulash was very thin, so we added a bit of cornstarch to thicken it up. That was fairly tasty– much better the next day! I don’t know that I would make that particular recipe again, but I did see this recipe that sounds similar that I will add to my list to try.

My German potato salad recipe is a long time crowd favorite and can easily be adapted to be vegetarian, by skipping the bacon and using vegetable broth. I just make two batches of the “sauce” one with bacon and one without. Then I divide the potatoes up and make one for my vegetarian friends and one for everyone else. It works out nicely.  I can’t remember where I found that recipe on line, but if you would like it, send me a message and I’ll send it to you.

I decided to try a new currywurst recipe this time around and my husband agreed that it was much better than my original recipe. Currywurst is traditional German street food. It is grilled sausage (usually a bratwurst) and then a curried ketchup sprinkled with curry powder. My original recipe was a quickie version that I use when making it for my students. This recipe is more authentic and has a more robust flavor. I also grilled the sausages instead of just cooking them in the sauce in a crockpot. 

For dessert, I shared something I have been doing for my students for years– Spaghetti Eis. This link will show you the basic idea, but I make some adjustments to the recipe. I use frozen strawberries with sugar that have been thawed for the sauce. I shave white chocolate with a microplaner for the parmesan cheese. Then I add whoppers for meatballs and Pirouette wafers for breadsticks. If you want to be fancy, you could use chocolate ice cream instead and say it is whole wheat pasta. Kids LOVE this recipe, but I was tickled by how much the adult crowd got a kick out of it as well. 

real edible ice cream, no artificial ingredients used!

The evening was in general a success. We would like for it to be a wider variety of new people, so that no one feels left out of the conversation. We definitely had more food than we could possibly have consumed. We tossed around the idea of just doing appetizers next time. Or perhaps appetizers and desserts. But we gave it a try and we had a nice time and we’ll do it again– just a bit different. Isn’t that the case for everything? You try something and then make adjustments and do it again? 

What recipe would you bring to an international foodie potluck?

Vampires and such…

Yesterday I had coffee with a terrific friend at a new-to-me cafe called Kava Diem. Jen and I met during a Dick Pond Saturday morning run almost five years ago. We are affectionately called the Wonder Twins. We have the same name. We run at the same pace. We are goal driven doers. We love helping people. We have big hearts. We are both writers. We are just about the same age and you can’t deny that we have the same stinking name. The universe threw us together at a time when I didn’t even know how badly I was craving a friend like Jen. From that day on we would have deep meaningful conversations about everything under the sun. The miles we shared together are some of my most cherished memories. As has been the case with many people, COVID interrupted our lives and our ability to run together. It has not stopped us from getting together for coffee and more of those deep conversations. 

We were catching up on life and the universe when she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She said people are either givers or takers and the extreme takers are energy vampires. She went on to say that she gravitates towards givers, but every once in a while she gets tangled with an energy vampire that sucks her soul dry. I almost fell out of my chair. In the split second after she had shared this idea, my brain had done a quick assessment of everyone in my life. It was perfectly clear who the givers were. I craved spending time with them and felt refreshed and renewed, invigorated and inspired by them. It was equally clear who the takers were— the people with whom it was SO hard to be in a relationship. They expected the world from you and gave nothing in return. Time spent with them frequently ended in an argument, judgment or a migraine. Alarms and bells and whistles and sirens went off in my head after her description of the energy vampire. 

At first my brain went straight for all the “Karens” in my life— the people who are so toxic that you can’t understand why you ever want to spend time with them, but at the same time you are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. But once my brain was able to reconcile that yes I do have some toxic relationships, it really hit me that the true energy vampire in my life is social media. Ugh! I hate wasting my time scrolling long after I have caught up on the lives of my friends and family scattered all over the world. I hate how divisive and full of hate my timeline is. I hate that we live in a world of highlight reels and not reality. Yet, day after day I am drawn to it. 

Looks like it is time for a detox…also a pillar of the creative mindset. Time for me to decide NOT to spend time with the toxic people in my world and time to step back from the social media cesspool. 

Are there energy vampires in your life? 

Spanish doors

I wanted to immerse myself in every chance I could to explore creativity on our once in a lifetime trip to Spain. On our first walk through the quaint town of Bot, I immediately noticed the beautiful doors and windows. I made a mental note to take advantage of some free time to explore the area with my camera. The opportunity came one morning when I woke up early to go for a run on the via Verde near our hotel. Tom was still sleeping and we didn’t have plans until the afternoon. 

I grabbed my gear and headed out to explore. I roamed the city streets listening only to the sounds of the town coming to life— roosters from a local farm crowing in the distance, vans and trucks making their morning deliveries and the occasional Buen dia  as someone strolled past me. I could truly get used to this way of life! 

The variety of doors was staggering. Every single door was different. Most of them were wood, but they were in no way cookie cutter. Some were arched. Some were wider. Many were very colorful. A lot had ornate metal details or unique handles/knockers. Each entrance had its own unique personality. 

I know it is easy to say that something is better because you are in a far-away location. Coming from suburban Chicago where everything looks exactly the same, the variety was truly refreshing. 

This was an excellent exercise to find the beauty in the everyday. 

When in Spain…

One of the tenants of a creative mindset is learning new things. What better time to do this than while on vacation in Spain? For as many times as we have stayed in an Airbnb, we had never tried out an Airbnb experience. I think that in my heart I knew that Barcelona was not going to hold the magic charm for us that it did for many others. So I started poking around for ideas of things that we could do— experience. My eye caught on a paella cooking class. It had amazing reviews and it was ridiculously cheap given what we had paid for cooking classes here in the States. I clicked “book it” and told Tom we would end our trip with a paella class in this guy’s backyard. Cool. 

There was something more that stoked the creative fires in both of us than just learning something new. Our host, Miguel, made us feel incredibly welcome in his beautiful home. The ambience was magnificent. We immediately noticed all the little extra details that made the space special. The garden was stunning— a true sanctuary from the world. Inside, he went above and beyond to set the scene. The music, appetizers and sangria made learning and conversation easy and lighthearted. Before we even started cooking, we were relaxed and felt like we were visiting an old friend instead of a total stranger. 

Everything about the experience tickled our creative juices. Music played in the house and garden. Miguel was a fellow creative. He was a police officer by day and shared his love of cooking with strangers from around the world on his days off. He has found a way to be creative, meet new people and make a bit of extra money. Almost all of the ingredients in the paella were items we had never cooked with. We prepared four different types of seafood and vegetables as well as a sauce for the paella. Left to our own devices we probably would not have cooked with all these different types of seafood, but we LOVED trying them all. We were forced to try something new and unexpected. We were absolutely in a new and stimulating environment that made us want to learn more and try more. And of course while we were engaged in all this fun and stimulating learning we were not attached to our phones and social media. 

I don’t know that we would have gotten all of this creative jolt from just any class. This was something special and we knew we were very lucky to be there experiencing it. If you find yourself in Castelldefels, Spain (or you want to get out of Barcelona), I highly recommend you check out Miguel’s class. You won’t regret it.

Magical Paella with Miguel in Castelldefels

A staycation

As I mentioned in the first post in this series, not everyone can just pick up and spend eleven days in Spain. However, one of our most memorable days in Spain was when Matt and Cassandra shared their favorite places and experiences with us. It gave me the chance to look at our hometown with different glasses. What would I put on such a list if I had to share our hometown with guests? 

Coffee and a pastry at Arabica Cafe. Although Diane and Chef Brian are currently trying to sell the cafe so that they can start chapter two of their retirement plan, it is still one of my all time favorite spots. I did almost all of my interviews for my book The Many Faces of Elgin there. The coffee is good and the pastries are amazing (or go later in the day for lunch- wowza). 

Check out the dam at Kimball Street. It is one of my all-time favorite spots in Elgin. If it’s freezing cold out, you might spot an eagle. If it’s summer, you’ll probably see a line of people fishing. Either way, it’s a very peaceful and beautiful spot to see the Fox River. Stroll down a bit and check out Walton Island.

At Kimball Street Dam
Eagles over Kimball Street Dam

Enjoy a bike ride, run or walk on the Fox River Trail. You can park at the Gail Borden Library in downtown and head north toward Algonquin or head south toward Aurora. 

Enjoy a martini at The Martini Room. Each month the lounge hosts the art of a local artist. Although they do not sell food, their cocktails are outstanding.

Martini Room

Get a bag of popcorn at Mama Lee’s to snack on while checking out the shops around downtown. Meraki Market features the work of local artisans. Elgin Knit Works is a beautiful yarn shop. Steep ‘n Clay is a tea and pottery shop. There are a variety of antique shops scattered around downtown as well.

Check out the public art throughout town. Elgin has amazing murals and sculptures. Most of it is accessible on foot from downtown. 

Get a German pretzel roll at Herb’s Bakery. These are the real deal and they sell out very fast. Call ahead and order a half-dozen…or go crazy and order a dozen. You won’t regret it. 

Have an iconic meal at Al’s Cafe (lunch or dinner- you won’t be disappointed). 

Elgin has a large hispanic population and as a result some excellent options for authentic food. One of our favorites is Taqueria Chapala on the far east side. 

Elgin Symphony Orchestra at the Hemmens Center. We are crazy lucky to have three amazing orchestras in Illinois. If you want to skip the major hassle of traveling downtown to see the CSO, you won’t be disappointed with free parking, ample dining options within walking distance and world class talent at the ESO. 

Discover the amazing architecture throughout Elgin. Whether it is a walking tour of the famous painted ladies and other historical homes or the various churches and temples, Elgin has it all. 

Painted Lady

Bluff City Cemetery is a stunningly beautiful historic cemetery on the far east side of town. Wander the grounds and then go for a hike in Bluff Spring Fen, which is accessed at the far end of the cemetery. 

What would be on your Staycation Itinerary if I were to visit your area? 

The Invitation of a Lifetime

We knew as soon as we received the invitation to Matthew and Cassandra’s wedding we would do everything possible to attend. After all, how often do you receive an invitation to an intimate wedding in the rolling hills of Spain? Once we negotiated all the chaos of traveling internationally near the tail end of a global pandemic, we were ready to get our fiesta on.

Everything about this wedding fits the challenges I set forth in my post about a creative mindset

Listen to music. Nine different countries were represented at the wedding. The bride and groom asked everyone from outside the US to share a few songs for the DJ to play during the reception. It was so unique to hear songs from India, Sweden and Ukraine. I never would have heard these songs otherwise and I’ll always smile when I think back on the reception and dancing to them.

Keep an idea journal. The food at the reception was out of this world and it had me making notes to try and find recipes to try back at home. From the camembert bites in blueberry sauce to the vegetarian paella and quinoa salad, my creative juices were flowing! 

Talk to other creatives. This was a very small wedding- only 38 guests. When we talked to the bride and groom about the guest list they admitted that they were drawn to the same types of people— people with a sense of adventure and creativity. After all, most of the guests were traveling thousands of miles to attend the festivities. 

Embrace failure. The bride and groom were extremely thoughtful in how they arranged guests at each table. There was a mixture of people who spoke only Spanish, only English and both English & Spanish at each table. Pedro, a local farmer at our table, tried to engage the Spanish learners at our table with children’s riddles using farm animals. The three non-Spanish speakers at our table stared at him with zero comprehension of what he was trying to communicate. The bilingual guest translated, we laughed and postulated an answer. Time after time our language and creativity failed us. We laughed it off and kept trying. 

Be a lifelong learner. I knew as soon as we decided to make the trip that I was going to do everything to learn at least basic Spanish. I spent countless hours and gave up daily lunch periods to practice on Duolingo. There was no way that I would be fluent in time for the trip, but I did get a healthy dose of creative use of my limited language skills. 

Expose yourself to new environments. The entire wedding fit this challenge. When most people travel to Spain they go to the big cities— Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, etc. The ceremony was held in the middle of the Spanish countryside in Arnes on a stunningly beautiful vineyard that no one has ever heard of. It was an all vegetarian/vegan menu that tantalized our taste buds with each bite. We knew the bride and groom and none of the other guests- which forced us to meet and interact with new people. 

Have new experiences. The wedding festivities continued well into the night. We danced and laughed and celebrated the beautiful couple like it was the last thing we would ever do. The joy carried into the next day when a couple from India shared the Holi festival of color with the wedding guests. We piled into cars and headed into the mountains with huge packets of colored powder. After a short hike down to the river, the color madness started. Everyone grabbed packets of powder and smeared them all over anyone within arms reach. Joy and laughter was radiating from every single person. Before we knew it everyone had jumped into the river and the colors were just a memory. 

I know that traveling to exotic destinations is not an everyday (or in our case even an every year) occurrence. We did embrace every chance we could to make the most of this special opportunity and to recharge our creative batteries as much as we could.

Travel- steroids for creativity

We recently returned from the trip of a lifetime to Spain. We spent eleven magical days enjoying the Spanish countryside and soaking up every last drop of life spice. It seems hypocritical to talk about feeling inspired after taking a dream vacation, because who wouldn’t? It makes me think of the time I had the chance to ask world-famous photographer Art Wolfe to tell me his favorite place to photograph. He responded with Myanmar. Only someone who is able to travel internationally regularly would give such a response. Because it will be a long time before we are able to take such a trip again, I did reflect on the aspects of our trip that inspired a creative mindset so that we can try to recreate those types of experiences here at home. Over the next few weeks, I will post a series of blogs about our experiences in Spain. Here is a sneak peak…

Our food experiences were by far the most amazing. For years we have been asking for recommendations in restaurants. Check out my post Why I’ll never order off a menu again. We continued to do so while in Spain. We tried so many foods that we never would have ordered on our own—duck, partridge, clams, mussels, cuttlefish, octopus, prawns and much more. I now know that my day is always better if it starts with a café con leche. As soon as we got home, I decided to host an international potluck. Everyone is bringing a dish from their heritage to pass. Foodie potluck

New experiences are obviously easier when you are in a new place where everything is new. Our adventures started with the invitation of a lifetime— one we could not turn down. Some of our explorations were simple (Spanish doors) while others were much more elaborate. One of our most memorable days was when our friends took a day to share their “favorites” with us. What would be on my favorites list if someone were visiting us? We did something similar when my bestie and her husband were in town for the day from Connecticut. Could I ask others to suggest an itinerary for a day in their area? Staycations

Music makes my heart skip a beat. Matt and Cassandra asked their guests from 9 different countries to share 3-4 songs for the DJ to play during the reception. I don’t have any of the names of the songs that were played, but I remember how much I smiled when I heard music from Ukraine, India, Mexico and even Sweden. My Pandora stations are so perfectly curated that they play only songs that I know and love. This, of course, is a double edged sword. I need to explore some new music avenues. Music

Learn something new. We ended our trip with an Airbnb Experience to learn how to make paella, which combined our love of food, culture and learning. Paella. While we cannot take a cooking class every week, I do have a stack of recipes from a great book I checked out from our library called The Kitchen Without Borders.  It features stories and recipes from immigrant and refugee chefs from around the world. Our Foodie Map is eagerly awaiting more pins. 

The best thing about vacations is how they make you appreciate home. This trip was no different. While we would love to figure out a way to have our “olive farm” right now, we have ways to inject joy and creativity into our lives every single day. 

An Artist’s Date with Claire Saffitz

Last summer I finally ordered and started reading Julia Cameron’s iconic book Artist’s Way. While much of the book did not resonate with me (I am 100% in the minority here and totally ok with that), one aspect that did stick with me was her emphasis on the importance of artist dates. I have a long list of ideas in my inspiration journal and one area that I had not yet explored was diving into cooking as a creative exercise. 

Like so many others, Tom and I became master binge watchers during COVID 2020. Tom is the YouTube Maestro and he discovered the one and only Claire Saffitz. On her Bon Appetit show, she tried to recreate favorite snack items like everything from Gourmet Cheetos to Pop Tarts. While we did not necessarily have any desire to make any of these tasty treats, her show was witty and entertaining. She had a way of making everything lighthearted and look easy. Fast forward to December 2021 when I fell in love with the Netflix show School of Chocolate. It got me thinking about the conversation Tom and I had earlier in the year about wanting to try our hand at some fancy desserts. Afterall, I had pinned gobs of recipes, but I had yet to try any of them. Fast forward again to our stocking stuffer exchange on Christmas Eve. Tom bought me a beautiful copy of Claire Saffitz’s book Dessert Person. Let me start by saying I am a cookbook fanatic. I love reading them almost as much as I do making recipes from them. However, never have I devoured a cookbook the way I did this one. I was so inspired by the beautiful images, detailed directions and the incredible variety of recipes that I could not wait to dive in and try something. These recipes were different from anything I had ever tried before. Sure I had made cinnamon rolls before, but these were some serious next level stuff. Yes, I had made sous vide lemon curd, but I had never made a tart. Of course, I had made chocolate cakes, but nothing like Claire’s wave cake. Every night I would thumb through the pages and read another recipe. I would ooh and ahh about whatever recipe I was reading.

That is when I decided that I was going to take myself on a date with Claire and dedicate a whole weekend to diving into her book. Wednesday night, Tom and I mixed up the Meyer Lemon Curd for the Lemon Tart. I was apprehensive because I have heard so many nightmares about how hard it is to make homemade lemon curd. I had always let the sous vide do the hard work. Here I was signing up to stand and whisk the eggs and lemon juice and butter for ten straight minutes. The curd it yielded was OUT OF THIS WORLD! And it was no problem whatsoever to make. Tom whisked for me, but it really was easy to make. Friday night I mixed up the sweet yeast dough for the Walnut Maple Sticky Buns. Saturday morning, the buns went in the oven as soon as I got home from running. I commented on Claire’s youtube page that these sticky buns changed our lives forever. They are not the type you get at the mall covered in ooey gooey sugary sauce. These are sophisticated and brilliant sticky buns that will make you rethink everything you thought to be true in the world. And then Sunday morning, I made the Chocolate Wave Cake and finished the Lemon Tart. The chocolate cake and lemon tart were on the docket for a girls’ afternoon I was hosting. While my running tribe had had loads of my Christmas cookies, I had never baked anything like this for them (or anyone else for that matter). I was more than a little nervous. Tom reminded me that if anything went wrong, we could run to the store and pick something up. This was NOT an option in my head.

The awesome thing about Claire’s book is that she is in the process of making YouTube videos to accompany all the recipes. So I was able to see her talk her way through all the recipes I was making. These are not “throw together quickly” recipes. They all involved multiple steps and multiple recipes to make one final product. Claire’s videos humanized the recipes. They were no longer these elite fancy must graduate from pastry school to make recipes, but rather something even I could accomplish. Spoiler alert! Everything turned out marvelous. The girls loved all the desserts and we enjoyed the leftovers for the better part of a week.

Diving into this book was certainly an interesting creative endeavor for me. I love cooking and baking and trying new recipes. But this was all on a new level and it opened up creative circuits in my brain that had been dormant for a bit. I’m glad that I remembered that not all creative adventures have to happen in the Oodlearium. 

Side note- no idea how I did not get a picture of the lemon tart…it was heavenly!

Until next time,

Oodle On

The 12 Days of Hot Chocolate

This year, Tom and I decided that we were going to focus on making our own Christmas memories and infusing our home with the joy of the season. That is how the 12 Days of Hot Chocolate came to be. While we have always been somewhat snobbish about our hot chocolate consumption (ie no Swiss Miss and hot water allowed in this household), we have never searched for a recipe that takes our hot chocolate to the next level. 

 

Our basic hot cocoa recipe (2 servings)

  • 2 cups milk of choice

  • 2 TBSP dark chocolate cocoa powder

  • 2 TBSP sugar

  • Splash of vanilla

 Heat milk in the microwave and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with your favorite toppings. 

 I turned to Pinterest to find twelve recipes for us to try. The teacher in me and the engineer in Tom of course had to make a rubric to score the recipes. We went back and forth on a lot of different ideas, but in the end opted to keep it nice and simple with a 3 candy cane rating system: 

 

  • 1 candy cane – we did not even finish the mug and won’t ever make it again.

  • 2 candy canes- we finished it, but probably won’t make it again

  • 3 candy canes- absolutely loved it and will add it to our personal cookbook

 I printed off the 12 recipes and made my shopping list. We were ready to get started!

 

The results:

I don’t want to disappoint you this early in the post, but full disclosure- we ended up not trying all twelve recipes. Very early on we discovered what we like, love and hate about hot chocolate. We used the recipes to explore different flavors, but in the end we didn’t need all twelve recipes to figure that out. I will include links to all twelve at the very end in case you want to do your own experiment.

 

All things being equal:

There are a few elements that we kept standard throughout the recipes, despite what the recipe actually called for. 

  1. 70% cocoa Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips

  2. Dark cocoa powder from Costco

  3. Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk or Organic Skim Cow’s milk

  4. Anywhere that called for heavy cream or half-half, we used Silk non-dairy half-half.

 And so it began….

 

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate 

I am obsessed with all things chocolate and peanut butter, so I started our adventure with the only peanut butter and chocolate recipe. I was sure this would be my favorite before we even started. I mixed everything up and poured the concoction into the His and Hers penguin mugs we would be using for the challenge. I took a huge sip and let out a howl of excitement. Man was that yummy. Tom was less impressed. My initial impression was that I would drink it every day for the rest of my life. Tom thought he might finish it, but he is not a lover of chocolate and peanut butter like I am. Within a few minutes though we both felt like someone had stuck a straw into a jar of Skippy. To my shock and chagrin— neither of us finished our mugs! I don’t know if it would be better with higher quality peanut butter. I only had creamy Skippy on hand from my holiday baking as Tom prefers the chunky Crazy Richard’s peanut butter for everyday use. Perhaps more milk to thin it out or even less PB, but overall this one was a big bust!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate- 3 candy canes

Not much I love more this time of year than peppermint. Next up was a peppermint hot chocolate recipe that was sure to win our hearts— except for the fact that I cannot read. I made the recipe and we both agreed it was tasty, but it seemed really sweet. When I looked at the recipe, I discovered that instead of putting ¼ tsp of sugar, I poured in a heap ¼ cup. Oops! I made it again later that week with a more appropriate amount of sugar and we both really liked it. We started thinning out the recipes a bit with this one, because we prefer to drink our hot chocolate rather than chew it. This one was a WINNER! 

Colonial Hot Chocolate

 

Our third recipe was one that we were holding on to share with some friends when they popped by for a holiday visit. The Colonial Hot Chocolate recipe had a unique flavor palette and we knew our foodie friends would enjoy doing this taste test with us. This recipe involved me hunting down a few ingredients I had never used before (star anise & ground cardamom), but overall it was an incredibly easy recipe to make. Given the incredibly unique combination of flavors and how easy it was to make, we all agreed this was one of the best hot chocolates we had ever had. This is a solid dessert hot chocolate, but could also serve as a lovely regular recipe if thinned out a bit. 

Nutella Hot Chocolate

After the peanut butter hot chocolate recipe, I was a bit gun shy to try the Nutella Hot Chocolate. I could not have been more wrong! It was awesome— just nutty enough to be unique and the perfect balance of yummo chocolate flavor. 

Hot Chocolate

After a few recipes that were next level with flavors and add-ons, we decided to step back and try a basic recipe that could potentially be our go-to hot cocoa recipe. This one was a sure fire winner— with one change. Tom and I agreed that we much prefer to drink our hot chocolate rather than almost chew it— so I added in an extra cup of milk to the recipe. Yummo!

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Next up was going to be a Mexican Hot Chocolate, but neither of us were excited about the idea of something spicy. Instead, I opted for a recipe for a cinnamon hot cocoa that I was hoping would be similar to the cinnamon crunch latte I had at Panera last week. We were both busy with projects and it was the perfect time to throw in a cup of holiday cheer. Tom proclaimed this was his absolute favorite recipe and I was very close to agreeing. Steeping a whole stick of cinnamon in milk for ten minutes produced a beautifully delicious hot chocolate. With some fresh whipped cream on top, this one was AMAZING! I actually made this again the very next day,

 

Parisian Hot Chocolate

We gave one last recipe a try before declaring the challenge complete. The Parisian Hot Chocolate recipe was elegant and grand, but it was WAY TOO MUCH of everything for us to enjoy. Even with me thinning out the recipe, neither of us finished the mug. We agreed that we know the basics of what makes a great cup of hot chocolate in conjunction with how we like ours prepared so that we can now mix and match a bit from the recipes we tried out. 

Here is a list of all the recipes in case you want to do your own comparison:

  1. Nutella Hot Chocolate

  2. Mexican Hot Chocolate (House of Yumm) / Mexican Hot Chocolate (Green Healthy Eating)

  3. Peppermint French Hot Chocolate

  4. Colonial Hot Chocolate

  5. Parisian Hot Chocolate

  6. Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

  7. Italian Hot Chocolate

  8. Maple Sea Salt Vegan Hot Chocolate

  9. Homemade Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe ~ Barley & Sage

  10. London Fog Whipped Cream Hot Chocolate

  11. Thierry Rautureau’s Hot Chocolate (from Theo Cookbook)

  12. Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

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