Happy New Year! Like most folks, I use the start of a new year to set goals for a healthier, happier me. This year, I’m excited about reducing the number of commit-ments in my life so that I can do things like cook and meal prep more – which will be healthier for both my body and my wallet.
With that, my column this year will be a combination of bulked up meal prepping recipes some weeks with other weeks featuring recipes geared towards special oc-casions or entertaining (or "free" meals for those who are striving for healthier diets). This week is the latter: recipes to celebrate winter coming to Arkansas.
Decadent Hot Chocolate: This hot chocolate recipe is so incredibly rich that it’s best served in adorable little espresso cups. The chocolate I used was 90 percent cacao, so if you use anything less bitter, you’ll want to start with less powdered sugar and just adjust to taste. If serving to kids with particular ideas of what hot chocolate is, you’ll probably want to sweeten it more and thin with lots more milk. If serving to adults wanting a festive treat, it is quite amazing with a splash of spirits – I tested with goodies made by Rocktown Distillery in Little Rock and everyone loved it.
Barley Ale Crepes: Crepes are always impressive, which is good because they take a little time and effort to perfect. The first key to crepes is to know that you’re prob-ably going to throw out the first few you make. I’ve made crepes at least 20 times in the last year and a half and I am always surprised if the first one turns out well. Next, read through the recipe a few times and get everything handy, including a pan that you are comfortable holding with one hand and tilting side to side over and over again. Then, don’t flip the crepe until the crepe is at least 80% cooked – you’re really just searing the second side – that’s the real key that will keep your crepes from tearing. Finally, if you feel like the batter is too thick and not spreading out as you turn the pan side to side, add water (I do about ¼ cup at a time) and stir well. These savory crepes can be used to step up deli meat and sliced cheese or filled with the Sausage, Egg & Veg Scramble. Topping them with the cheesy Swiss & Parmesan Sauce makes it a true celebratory meal.
Sausage Egg & Veg Scramble: This can serve as a healthy one-pan breakfast or be used to fill savory crepes. To make these, I first cooked up the sausage and veg ele-ments, then used my favorite scrambled egg method where I let the residual heat from the pan finish cooking creamy eggs instead of cooking them to a rubbery death. For this version, I just folded in the cooked sausage and veg a bit before the eggs were finished.
Swiss & Parmesan Sauce: The basis for this Swiss & Parmesan Sauce is a tradition-al béchamel (or white sauce) with cheese stirred in at the end. Because both the cheeses are so flavorful on their own, I very much recommend tasting the sauce and then adding just enough salt (if any) to enhance their flavors. The sauce is amazing with pasta and chicken, in a baked mac & cheese, or as the finishing touch for an amazing brunch or breakfast-for-dinner of filled savory crepes.
As always, I hope you’ll eat as much local goodness as you can - and let me know if you try my recipes. If you’re looking for local ingredients, check out the "market update" for details on our two year-round farmers markets. If you didn’t place an order, make sure to check out their Facebook pages on Friday to see what they have on their "extras" tables. Until next year, stay warm & festive!
Decadent Hot Chocolate
• 6-8 cups whole milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• ½ cup powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 16 ounces (1 pound) bittersweet chocolate
• Additional Milk
• Coffee Liqueur*
• Whipped cream
• Peppermint sticks
• Cinnamon sugar
• Cocoa powder
1. In a large pot, slowly heat milk, cream, sugar, and salt until bubbles start to appear at the edges.
2. While milk is heating, chop chocolate into small pieces.
3. When milk is hot (but before it starts simmering), remove from heat and mix in chocolate. Stir together until chocolate is melted and incorporated.
4. If necessary, return the chocolate to a very low heat for a minute or so to finish melting chocolate/keep warm.
5. Serve as is and top with whipped cream for the most decadent and thick hot chocolate ever or thin at a 2:1 ratio (2 ounces hot chocolate to 1 ounce milk and/or liqueur) for a more traditional hot chocolate consisten-cy.
Enjoy as is or garnish with your choice of any/all peppermint sticks, whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and/or a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
*Local drinks via Rocktown Distillery.Barley Ale Crepes
• 1/4 cup barley flour
• 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
• 2 eggs*
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• 12 ounces scotch style ale (like Founders Dirty Bastard)
• 1 teaspoon Beaverfork Blend*
• Butter for pan
1. Blend ingredients together and let hangout in the fridge or on the counter for an hour.
2. Heat a wide-bottomed, shallow-edge non-stick pan over medium. Add a dab of butter and brush over the pan’s surface.
3. Pick pan off of burner and slowly pour ¼ cup of batter, tipping the pan from one side to the other to encourage the batter to spread out as much as possible – forming a large, thin pancake.
4. Cook until the edges are browned and begin to lift (depending on the heat, this could be 30 seconds to a minute). Use a spatula to flip the crepe and then cook for another 15 – 45 seconds – until browned all over - depending on the heat of the pan.
5. Using a spatula, fold the crepe in half, and then half again. Transfer from pan to a plate.
6. Repeat process until all crepes are cooked.
Enjoy these crepes filled with Sausage, Egg, & Veg Scramble and top with Swiss & Parmesan Sauce.
*Local eats via Conway Locally Grown.Sausage, Egg & Veg Scramble
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
• 1 yellow onion
• 1 medium sweet potato*
• 1 pound beef breakfast sausage*
• 1 head broccoli
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 6 eggs*
• Sea salt
• Fresh cracked pepper
1. Heat oil in a deep skillet. Dice onions and sweet potatoes and add to skil-let. Cover and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until softened.
2. Add breakfast sausage to skillet. Use a spatula to break into pieces and combine with onions and potatoes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until brown.
3. Chop broccoli and add to skillet. Stir to combine and replace lid. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, until bright green. Transfer to a bowl.
4. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel. Break eggs into a bowl. Pour eggs in-to skillet and add butter. Let sit on medium heat for 10-20 seconds, until the bottom layer looks like it’s lightly cooked.
5. Use a spatula to break up egg yolks and mix into egg whites. Let cook for 10-20 seconds, stir again, and repeat until eggs look lightly set.
6. Pour sausage and veg into eggs, mix together and let cook for 10 se-conds. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Enjoy with shredded cheese and toast or as a filling for Barley Ale Crepes.
*Local eats via Conway Locally Grown.Swiss & Parmesan Sauce
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
• 2 cups milk
• ½ cup Swiss cheese
• ½ cup Parmesean cheese
• Fresh cracked pepper
1. Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add flour and stir until a smooth, thickened paste-like substance forms.
2. Pour in about half the milk and whisk until combined. Stir in the rest of the milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble (2-5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and let bubble, stirring, for 2 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, stir in cheese, and season with pepper. Stir until melt-ed and combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Enjoy with pasta or as a topping for Barley Ale Crepes stuffed with Sausage, Egg & Veg Scramble.