Friday, December 31, 2010

happy new year...want a hot chocolate recipe?

so it is new year's eve. what a holiday season! my entire family came to napa. we had 40 friends and family members for christmas eve, then a sit down brunch and dinner for ten on christmas day. loads of talking, eating, cooking, laughing, endless story telling (the ones we tell over and over every time we get together) you!

i want to emphasize the eating...because eat we did. i completely ignored my "post cleanse" healthy diet. i ate everything! and yes, i am feeling a bit tired, sluggish and sloooow. i had a wonderful time and...with two more days of celebrating...more to come. i have been doing a lot of thinking about my 2011 resolutions and i have decided to emphasize the word moderation to sum up my goals. i actually love the way i feel when i am eating extremely healthily...and have realized that that is the way i want to feel...healthy. not bloated, tired, overly full. when i was on the cleanse last month everyone kept asking me how i felt. the only way to describe it was that i felt good all the time...not jumping up and down excited...but...good. no ill effects from anything i ate and that is a good thing. it does not mean i want to permanently give up everything that is off the "cleanse list". it just means i want to exercise moderation in the not-really-healthy-but-delicious category of food.

thank you richard lau for the photo

here is an chocolate. i was reading a blog post by my twitter friend judy witts francini a.k.a divina cucina. judy is one of my favorite bloggers and cookbook i have had the good fortune to meet her and she is absolutely delightful. she lives and works in italy...teaches cooking classes there....and her recipes are wonderful. anyway, she posted a recipe for hot chocolate which sounded rich...creamy...intensely chocolately...and delicious. it reminded me of the hot chocolate served at angélina or café de flore in paris. have you ever had hot chocolate so rich you needed to drink ice water after every sip? well judy's sounded like that. i made it on a very cold and rainy night...perfect! but not something i could drink often. so i created a healthier version that is still delicious. moderation, remember? now i can have divina's once in a while...and my version more frequently....and not feel deprived because honestly...they both are fantastic.

divina's recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, milk and bittersweet chocolate. you could really guild the lily and use cream...but even i don't go that far. my remake uses the same excellent cocoa and chocolate, but substitutes almond milk and agave nectar for the sugar and milk. really, really good. (oh...and i took leonardo's suggestion and topped with a bit of cayenne powder...this is brilliant!) thank you idea go for the photo!

so go ahead...enjoy everything you love in moderation...just remember, the definition of moderation is: 1. the state or an instance of being moderate; mildness; balance...being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme . my favorite word from that definition is balance...and that truly is my new year's resolution. what's yours?

"divina cucina's hot chocolate recipe and story
(i pulled the recipe directly from divina's site)
Vestri's Tuscan Hot Chocolate

per person:
1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into tiny pieces

In the bottom of a small sauce pan, place the cocoa powder, sugar and 2 tbs of milk.
Whisk together to remove lumps and heat.
When hot, add the milk and whisk the chocolate mixture to blend.

Add the chopped chocolate to the hot milk, stir, and let sit.
Take off the heat and mix again until all the chocolate has been melted.

If you want to be decadent as in Florence, serve topped with lots of whipped cream.
As Leonardo does, season with chili pepper powder for a nice almost Mexican kick! "

napa farmhouse hot chocolate
per person:
1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp organic agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 oz best quality (70% cacao) bittersweet chocolate (i use scharffenberger) well chopped

follow divina's directions...can be doubled, tripled, much as you like... enjoy!
i just want to take a moment to wish you all the best in 2011...may all your hopes and dreams come true...

best and happy new year!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™ "live a green life of style™ " do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page

Follow napafarmhouse on Twitter

to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...

Friday, December 17, 2010

how about a recipe for spiced lentil & chickpea soup? is december 17th. christmas eve is a week from today (yikes) and i am nowhere near ready. oh...and have i mentioned that my entire family is coming to napa this year for the holidays? and that i can't seem to stop inviting friends to join us? and that this has been an unbelievable year for online orders? (thank you everyone!) i have spent the last 3 weeks non stop packing up shipments and driving back & forth between ups and fed ex...whew...didn't i leave corporate life to stop working so hard?

now, i know that last paragraph sounds like i am complaining...but my friends know that i am actually loving every minute of my life...and hosting christmas makes me happier than i can say. the trick is to have a plan...and get over the concept of trying to have everything perfect. i know it sounds cliche..but i think my family is really much more interested in being together than how i have decorated my home...or if i serve elaborate and time consuming meals. my philosophy for holiday food is the same as the rest of the year...use the best-quality-possible ingredients and then don't muck it up with overly complicated preparations.

most people arrive on the 23rd...and almost everyone is driving a long distance that day...either from southern california or oregon. i am keeping the guest list that night small...just family...and making a meal that is easy, delicious and forgiving for late arrivals. i can set everything out...keep the soup simmering on the stove...and let people serve themselves. i want to be free to catch up with everyone. have i told you how much i adore my family?

my december 23rd menu is easy: spiced lentil & garbanzo bean soup, baked ham with orange-ginger glaze topped with smoked brown sugar, extra virgin olive oil biscuits and a big salad. dessert is...what else?...massive platters of cookies. wine, beer and sherry with the cookies complete the spread...oh and hot chocolate for the kids (spiked with spiced rum for the adults).
we are scheduled for 10 days of rain here in napa...the tree is decorated, lights up, fireplace stocked and holiday music loaded. i think i am ready for the 23rd. now, if i can just finish buying presents we will be good to go...

this soup is adapted from a recipe i found in martha stewart living magazine. i followed the recipe but added additional vegetables because i like the taste...and like amping up the nutrients. also, martha's recipe was for a stew...i turned it into a is delicious. i am suggesting people make mini sandwiches with the ham and soup, sandwiches and salad should be perfect to help unwind after the long car rides...

spiced lentil & garbanzo bean soup(if you can, use local, organic ingredients..there really is a difference in taste and so much healthier)
1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
1 onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
8 cups homemade or organic store bought vegetable stock
4 cups water, reserved from bean soaking liquid
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, very finely chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 tsps kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch kale, chiffonade and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 28 oz can, whole tomatoes (pour into a large bowl and crush tomatoes with your hands)
1 cup lentils (i like either yellow or pink in this dish, but any kind will work)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mace
small pinch red pepper flakes
small pinch freshly cracked black pepper
5 oz whole wheat, small elbow macaroni
2 tbsp italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp italian parsley, whole leaves

1. place chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a large stockpot and cover with 5 inches of water. let soak at least 8 hours, or overnight. drain beans reserving 4 cups of soaking liquid. place beans in a bowl.
2. add 3 tbsp olive oil to stockpot and heat until warm. add chopped onion and cook until translucent (about 5 min). add chickpeas, stock and the 4 cups of reserved soaking liquid. simmer until beans are tender, approx 45 minutes.
3. using the side of a chef's knife, mash the garlic, cilantro and salt into a paste. add garlic paste, bell pepper, kale, celery, tomatoes with their juice, lentils, tomato paste, and all the spices to bean mixture. squeeze the juice from one lemon juice to the pot. stir. simmer uncovered until lentils are tender. 30-40 minutes.
4. add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, approx 10 minutes.
5. stir in coarsely chopped cilantro and parsley.
6. garnish with parsley leaves and serve with remaining lemon wedges.

do you have family visiting for the holidays? what are your time saving tips? please share in the comments section below...thanks
best and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™"live a green life of style™ "do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page

Follow napafarmhouse on Twitter
to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...