Happy Customers – Island Upgrades

Happy Customers – Island Upgrades

We love when our happy customers show off their beautiful butcher blocks! This week we are highlighting two gorgeous island upgrades, one featuring a standard size John Boos Blended Walnut top, and the other using custom Butcher Block Co. American Cherry Plank-style butcher block. Both look beautiful and add warmth and function to the kitchens.

The first of our happy customers is Rachel from Colorado. Rachel’s 97″ X 36″ Blended Walnut island top has a Varnique semi-gloss finish, which is ideal since this is being used as an eating area as well as extended work space. What an impact!

Happy Customers Blended Walnut

Happy customer #2 is Teri from Tennessee. We worked with Teri extensively to find the perfect style and fit for her kitchen island. This plank-style American Cherry block is a unique and beautiful accent to her kitchen. Having chosen the natural oil finish, Teri can use this block for all her chopping and food prep. Teri’s project proves it is worth it to put in a little extra time and effort to get things just right – it looks fantastic!

Happy Customers Cherry Plank

We want to see what you’ve done, too. The more happy customers, the better! Send us your photos and we may feature you on our social media pages. We love to see them, and so do our other customers!

Summer Restaurant Week Featuring John Boos Commercial Grade Products

Summer Restaurant Week Featuring John Boos Commercial Grade Products

We’re celebrating Summer Restaurant Week here at Butcher Block Co. with John Boos commercial grade products. Whether you have  a bakery, deli, cafe, or large restaurant, you can trust in John Boos NSF-approved equipment. We offer a variety of John Boos commercial grade products designed to stand up to the wear and tear of restaurant kitchens, all while helping you work efficiently, run smoothly, and look good doing it!

If you are looking to upgrade your restaurant or other food service kitchen, check out our John Boos commercial grade products for the highest in quality.

For “back of house” products, we offer prep tables available in wood, stainless steel, or poly tops; stainless steel sinks with up to four basins, with and without drain boards; stainless steel cabinets with optional doors and/or drawers, in both maple and stainless tops; custom and standard size commercial grade butcher block countertops in hard rock maple; and a variety of NSF-approved cutting boards and chopping blocks. John Boos commercial grade products are top of the line — that’s why you see them in restaurant kitchens across the country, and on nearly every cooking show on TV.

John Boos commercial grade

If you’re looking to jazz up the “front of house,” Boos has you covered with restaurant quality dining table tops and bases. Available in maple, red oak, cherry, or walnut, there are a variety of standard sizes from which to choose. If you need something outside the standard parameters, contact us to get a quote for custom sizes and shapes. Traditional black metal bases are sold separately and come in both dining and bar height, and in disc, cross, or T style. If you really want to make a statement, consider a custom bar top. A gorgeous butcher block top spanning the length of your bar makes a huge visual impact and is sure to impress your patrons. Butcher block is both durable and beautiful, and will bring warmth and class to your dining room.

John Boos commercial grade

If you are a restaurateur, be sure to consider our business financing for commercial food service equipment. It is as simple as a click of a button with this 30 second online application. Now it can be easy to purchase your John Boos commercial products.

commercial financing

 

Roasted Cauliflower Rice Recipe

Roasted Cauliflower Rice Recipe

The cauliflower rice craze continues to spread and I love it.  Touted as the new kale, it remains a trendy and healthy veggie often prepared as a substitute for rice in recipes. It has also found its rightful place as an alternative ingredient in many gluten-free recipes and even pizza crust!

I am pretty happy preparing it as an alternative to rice, as I attempt to avoid bad carbs and stick with healthy veggies instead. Like rice, the cauliflower morsels will soak up the flavor of the surrounding seasonings making it very flavorful. There is nothing too fancy about this recipe, but everyone needs a tried and true recipe now and then, and this roasted cauliflower rice can be made just how you like it. Best of all, it is not mushy because instead of it being sautéed in a pan, you roast it in the oven to the desired crispness!

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (16 oz.) – Cauliflower Rice
  • ¼ cup – Garlic Infused Olive Oil or use whatever flavor you like!
  • Fresh Tarragon
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 lemon juiced

Preparation

Preheat to 425 degrees convection roast. For those of you who are true cooking enthusiasts, you may want to make your own cauliflower rice by ricing the florets in your food processor. But if you are like me and looking for the easy route, use the already riced Cauliflower you can find at Costco and other stores.

In mixing bowl, combine cauliflower rice, infused olive oil (Trader Joe’s), salt and pepper. Stir. Spread the mixture on a foiled cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then stir it around a bit. If you like crispy cauliflower rice, continue to roast to desired crispness. Take it out of the oven and add 2T chopped fresh tarragon to the top.  Fresh tarragon is really worth it, so make the extra effort to purchase it. Transfer your roasted cauliflower rice to a serving bowl and add the juice of 1 lemon and stir. Serve.

I like to double the recipe so that I have extra available to add to other goodies I find in my fridge. I will add it to other roasted vegetables, or add some rotisserie chicken to it to create another meal. I even mix it in with my less trendy kale salad!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Claire is back and she brought Strawberry Rhubarb Pie! Claire has never let us down in regards to summer delights, and this is the perfect dessert as we transition into the hot summer months. Let’s all take advantage of the farmers’ markets and roadside stands this weekend to pick up some fresh fruit and see what treats we can come up with. In the meantime, Claire has pie to share.

A little birdie has told me that it’s dessert week at Butcher Block Co. I know for a lot of people, that might conjure images of chocolates or cakes, but my favorite desserts are all fruit-based. Baked fruit, fresh fruit, whatever, I love it. We’re coming into fruit season now, and I can tell because giant, weathered rainbow umbrellas are popping up along roadsides over tables offering the best local summer produce at the best prices. We’re not quite at stone fruit season, but I am here for the early summer offerings, like strawberries and rhubarb. I love rhubarb, but like so many of the best foods, I didn’t appreciate it in my youth. I thought it was too tart, and also, it was a weird food that no one ever heard of and it looked like weird celery. When I was a kid, my mom would make rhubarb pie, and I would eat the crust and the ice cream and leave the filling. I was an idiot with bad taste; I always ordered the chicken sandwich in restaurants, which is why I didn’t discover how good hamburgers could be until I was well into my adulthood. But I digress.

When I was a teen, my dad actually planted some rhubarb in our front yard. I watched it grow from a little puff of leaves on slender pink stems into a giant, fan-leaved monster that threatened to take over the whole garden. By that time, like all teens, I still hadn’t completely grown out of my idiocy, but at least I had better taste. I started making a mess in the kitchen trying to copy my mom and grandma’s pies. I did apples in the fall, peach in late summer, and as the spring would start to turn hot, I did my part to rescue the garden from the encroaching rhubarb-pocalypse. Of course, as an obnoxious teen, I couldn’t stick to their tried-and true recipes. Instead, I stole all the newly-ripened strawberries from the tiny patch at the side of the house and put them into a pie with the rhubarb. It turned out awesome. It was like a revelation. My family never really came around to my side – old habits die hard, I guess.

For me, strawberry rhubarb pie is my absolute number one pie pick.

I don’t make a ton of pies anymore. It’s less fun when the mess is in my own kitchen and I can’t rely on my dad to come in behind me and start doing dishes. Also, I am a grown adult person, and I can’t just go around eating pies all the time. Still, when I see those umbrellas pop up along the roadsides, I know I have to do at least one strawberry rhubarb pie to bring me back to those flour-coated summer days in the kitchen, my dad buzzing around me with a sponge and the whole house smelling like heaven. Heading home from the grocery store last weekend, I saw one of those rainbow umbrellas, and I had to stop. Fifteen minutes later, I was at the kitchen table hulling the sweetest strawberries, the whole house already smelling like heaven.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
I don’t have my grandma’s recipe on hand anymore, so for this strawberry rhubarb pie, I used Deb Perelman’s recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which of course turned out amazing, even though I over-cooked the filling a smidge in order to get a prettier color in the crust. I really like the way the tapioca thickened the juices without affecting the flavor at all. Then I figured, as long as I was committing sacrilege by deviating from my family’s recipe for the filling, I might as well go whole hog. Mom, you may want to stop reading here.

My grandma always made the same crust Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for every pie with just flour, salt, vegetable shortening, and a little hot water to bind it all together. It’s a great workhorse crust. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but it’s reliable and simple to make, it works for a savory or sweet filling, and it’s what I grew up with, so it has always been my go-to. However, my mantra in the kitchen and in life is that the worst reason to do a thing is “because that’s how my parents always did it.” Plus, maybe I still have some of that obnoxious, rebellious teen in me. I decided to try my hand at an all butter crust for a change, and I am telling you, my eyes have been opened. It was flaky, rich, and as much the star of the dish as the incredible filling. After a perfect pie like this, I don’t think I could ever go back to shortening. Sorry not sorry, Grandma.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the spirit of dessert week, my husband and I have devoured nearly the entire glorious pie in the space of five days. I top each serving with some gently sweetened whipped cream, and I shamelessly lick the plate clean. What are you doing for dessert week? What is your quintessential summer dessert? Is it weird that I’m strongly considering making another strawberry rhubarb pie this weekend?

Enter our John Boos Standing Butcher Block Giveaway!

Enter our John Boos Standing Butcher Block Giveaway!

Butcher Block Co. Announces June Standing Butcher Block Giveaway

The Grand Prize Is an Authentic John Boos Butcher Block Worth up to $1000.

Online etailer Butcher Block Co. today announced a sweepstakes event that will run the entire month of June 2017. From time to time the company runs such promotional events to educate consumers about the beauty and utility of butcher blocks and to remind food service professionals of the heritage, prominence and trustworthiness of the John Boos brand.

Standing butcher blocks are a favorite among high-end home designers, amateur gourmets, culinary enthusiasts and professional chefs. The earliest Boos Blocks were made more than a century ago and used primarily by blacksmiths before John Boos discovered that his massive wooden blocks supported by sturdy wood legs could also satisfy the unmet needs of butchers in meat shops throughout the Midwest. From there his eponymous blocks made their way into workplaces of all types and sizes, into the kitchens of diners and restaurants, and eventually into homes.

Today the company’s line of standing blocks is expansive. It includes end-grain blocks made from Hard Rock Maple, American Cherry and Black Walnut, in thicknesses of 4, 6, 10 and 16 inches. To this day end-grain blocks are considered by many to be the only true replicas of the original butcher’s block.

Not only do end-grain blocks reveal wood’s intricate end-grain patterns and deliver the checkerboard look they are famous for, they also provide the toughest surface for cutting, slicing, chopping and pounding. That’s because millions of microscopic wood fibers comprise the cutting surface of an end-grain block. These fibers are both resilient and forgiving. They yield just enough to reliably absorb sharp knife or hatchet blades without causing them to dull prematurely. As a result, knives used on end-grain chopping blocks, cutting boards and countertops tend to stay sharper longer and to last longer.

Standing blocks are also gaining popularity among interior designers; presumably more for their aesthetics and functionality over their resilient cutting surfaces. As Americans increasingly yearn to simplify their lives and to reconnect with nature they are seeking beautiful pieces of wooden furniture that are both highly functional and works of art worth showing off. Toward this end, Boos & Co. makes many of its classic blocks available on colored bases. As many as thirteen color options are offered on some of their creations. Painted or stained legs (and table aprons, as applicable) can help direct attention to the piece’s real focal point – its gorgeous wood top; and can help the piece complement its environs, regardless of whether it’s situated in a kitchen, a breakfast nook or dining room or even in a foyer.

Consumers can enter the John Boos Standing Butcher Block Giveaway by visiting BBC’s Facebook page by June 30, 2017.

Enter Now for your chance to win in our exclusive John Boos Standing Butcher Block Giveaway!

For more information, please visit https://butcherblockco.com

Contact Info:
Name: Kathleen Grodsky
Organization: Butcher Block Co.
Address: 10448 N 21st Pl Phoenix, Arizona 85028

Custom Butcher Block Projects from Happy Customers

Custom Butcher Block Projects from Happy Customers

I get to work on most of our custom butcher block projects, so when we get pictures back from happy customers, it really makes my day! Remember the speed bag platform made from a butcher block table top? I’m not sure we’ll ever top the uniqueness of that one, but I’d sure love to see you try! Even in traditional applications, I’m always stunned by the amazing work our customers do, and I love that you all appreciate the beauty, warmth, and function that butcher block can bring into the home.

Recently, we received photos of three beautiful uses for custom butcher block.

Jerry in Georgia upgraded his workspace with these gorgeous desks made from John Boos Walnut custom butcher block with custom commercial grade stainless steel bases. These bases usually come with commercial grade Maple tops, but we had Boos put together this custom design and it looks so sharp! Since he is using these as desks, Jerry elected to go with the Varnique semi-gloss finish, for a smooth, maintenance-free surface.

Custom Butcher Block

 

Over in Arkansas, Tom and his wife built their own table base and used a custom butcher block for the table top. This John Boos Blended Maple top also has the Varnique semi-gloss finish, perfect for easy clean-up on a dining table. Isn’t this fantastic? I love the base and I’m so glad we could get the perfect size top for them.

Custom Butcher Block

Now let’s head way down south to Key West, where James has crowned his island with a stunning Butcher Block Co. Walnut Plank Style custom butcher block top. He asked for a “showstopper,” and boy did he get one! The plank style allows for wider sections of wood, which really show off the beautiful grain pattern and natural color variation of the Walnut. I think everyone should have one of these!

Custom Butcher Block

If you would like to explore the idea of adding custom butcher block to your home, give us a call or shoot over an email. We love working on these projects and seeing your creative ideas!

Food Processor Favorite – Olive Tapenade Recipe

Food Processor Favorite – Olive Tapenade Recipe

Are you a food processor aficionado? You should be! This versatile kitchen gadget, while large, makes short work of many tasks and will earn its keep every time you entertain. Sarah is here to share some of her favorite ways to use the food processor, along with a simple and versatile recipe for Olive Tapenade that is sure to please your palate. Alright, Sarah, get us all mixed up in this food processor world!

Greetings, entertainers. Let’s talk tech! I love kitchen gadgets, and when I was thinking around my kitchen for a favorite, one immediately sprang to mind. Not only is this gadget versatile, but it is easy to use, pretty noisy, and for me has some stress-relieving benefits.

I am, of course, speaking of none other than the food processor!

Why is a food processor so great? First, I never had one growing up, Food Processor so it went in the class of kitchen gadgets I thought of in my head as “super crazy technical and awesome” (along with the mandoline). I only ever saw them being used on cooking shows, and seeing professional chefs use them for everything made me want one pretty badly.

Fast forward a few years to when I finally put one in my own kitchen, and I’m a pretty happy camper. Do you want fresh salsa? Toss in a mango, some chiles in adobo sauce, and some fresh tomatoes. Run out of hummus halfway through the party? Never again. This thing is the king of dips, and as an added bonus, puts you in the front row to watch things being pulverized.

One of my favorite things to make with a food processor is tapenade. I usually have all the necessary ingredients in my kitchen, which mostly speaks to my love of olives (and anything salty). So let’s get down to it—how do we make this treat for your guests?

Ingredients

  • Olives. I like to use a combination of olives from the olive bar at my grocery store, but if you have a favorite, that works, too. Kalamata olives make great tapenade that turns out a pretty purple color. The key here is no pits.
  • Olive oil. Seems unnecessary, right? Wrong. Just a drizzle is absolutely necessary to getting your tapenade a smoother consistency.
  • Capers. Just a few!
  • Lemon juice. Salt loves acid. Enough said.

Food Processor

Directions

Assemble your food processor. For me, this means choosing the correct-size bowl, and determining which blade to use. I chose a smallish 4-cup bowl to keep my ingredients close together, and the standard chop blade that came with my machine. Some food processors offer doodads that julienne and add all kinds of awesome knifework to your ingredients. Olives are so small that it’s not necessary here.

Add olives! I chose a mix of dried black olives, red pepper Spanish queens, and kalamata. I used enough to almost cover the bottom of my food processor, but for a party, you’ll want closer to 2 cups.

Now capers. I used a heavy hand because I know I like the pungency. I wouldn’t use more than a teaspoon-full for guests.

I squeezed half a lemon using another favorite gadget—a citrus juicer. Pro tip—put your citrus in flat side down so that the squeeze turns the lemon inside-out.

Turn your food processor on low to blend your ingredients. I let it go about twenty seconds, or until the food stops moving around the bowl.

Once your olives are all stuck to the sides of your bowl, turn the processor off, remove the lid, and scrape the sides. Now, the magic. Add a little bit of olive oil, and turn it back on low. I’d recommend about a tablespoon, or enough to keep the pulverized bits moving around the bowl as the machine goes.

Do the check, scrape, add olive oil thing until your tapenade is the consistency you like, and then serve with pita chips or pita bread (I’m a sucker for pita bread with tapenade!). If you want to make it extra fancy, toast your pita in a pan on the stove first with a little butter.

So what are your favorite kitchen gadgets? Any that were a childhood dream realized as an adult (I know I’m a huge nerd)? Happy entertaining, hosts!

 

Homemade Soup – Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Homemade Soup – Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

A big bowl of homemade soup is just the ticket for these cold winter months, and with this Saturday being Homemade Soup Day, now is the perfect time to share a fantastic recipe that will warm you right up! It is also most definitely slow cooker season, so we’ve got Sarah here with a souper (sorry…) easy dish to come home to on a chilly night. Warm us up, Sarah!

In the dead of winter, I know I can always warm up from the inside out with a good bowl of homemade soup (and good bread!). I live in the snowbelt and experience a wonderful phenomenon known as the lake effect, which means I can expect a foot or more of snow overnight without Mother Nature blinking an eye. It’s great when you’re in school because there are snow days, but as an adult with a job, the traffic jam that doubles my commute home means that I am looking forward to dinner being ready when I get there.

Enter the slow cooker, one of my favorite kitchen appliances. You can throw raw ingredients together in the morning and come home to a fully-cooked meal.

My favorite homemade soup this winter has been a creamy coconut milk-based Thai chicken soup.

Adapted from this recipe, this soup is tangy and a little bit spicy. It gets better as you get deeper in your bowl.

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

  • 1 ½ lb. chicken (3 frozen chicken breasts)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (or 1 squeeze from herbs in a tube)
  • 1 heaping tsp ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 TBS red curry paste
  • 5 TBS fish sauce
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 TBS peanut butter
  • 4 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sriracha

Instructions on this one are pretty simple: Load up your slow cooker, turn it on low, and go about your day. I turn it up to high for a bit when I get home from work. I doubt it does anything, but it FEELS hotter. When you are ready for dinner, remove the chicken breasts and cut them up (lazy girl shortcut). This is great served over rice, but I love a brothy soup (as evidenced by my midnight whiskey chicken soup obsession). The combination of peanut butter, red curry paste, and fish sauce will keep you dipping your spoon until you’ve eaten a bowl or more. So good it sneaks up on you.

Homemade Soup

My favorite serving suggestion with Thai chicken soup is thick, crusty bread spread thick with good butter. A diced red pepper wouldn’t go amiss in this concoction, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at tossing in baby corn or plain frozen sweetcorn.

What are your favorite deep winter recipes? What is the best side to serve with homemade soup? Do you like your soup piping hot or more lukewarm? I am in camp “hot enough to burn my mouth,” just like my mother, and I will never learn.

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Need some simple, yummy Christmas cookies to make for your holiday cookie exchange? Or just to have on hand because, well, Christmas cookies are delicious? Sarah has an easy, tasty recipe to share with us today that will surely please a crowd.

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who bake. People who love to bake, and people who wish it wasn’t quite so… involved. The holiday season brings with it the anticipated (or dreaded) holiday parties and cookie exchanges. I, for one love any chance to be a little extra festive and fancy (and enjoy a few cocktails, clearly), but I also want an “easy” button.

Today’s recipe—Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies—is a little less involved than other Christmas cookies I’ve made, and the end result tastes great!

This recipe was a challenge for me, because I love to tweak things I already know, and I knew this recipe was good using lemon juice and lemon zest. I also had a dark red cherry liqueur on-hand. And it’s the Christmas season… I really wanted these to be pink cookies with green lime zest on top, but we don’t always get everything we want from Santa, either. The cherry flavor from the cherry liqueur is much more subtle than you think it will be in the finished product, and the dough soaks it right up, so feel free to use a heavy hand.

Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • Cherry liqueur (approximately 5/8 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. This will be a crumbly mixture with a clump of butter and cream cheese stuck to your mixer paddle. Don’t panic.

-Add the egg. Hooray for egg! This will give you something more akin to a standard cookie’s wet ingredient mixture.

-Add the cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the flour and cherry liqueur alternately. Mix half a cup of flour into your wet mixture and turn your mixer on for a moment to combine. This will get crumbly. Stop your mixer and add 2 tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then turn your mixer back on to combine. Repeat until you’ve added 2 ½ cups of flour and then balanced it out with cherry liqueur.

-This is an opportunity to either chill your dough, or the start of the period of time where you need to work quickly. Use your hands to form balls of dough about ½ an inch to 1 inch in size (I am terrible at uniform cookie sizes), and space about an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. I am a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen, but my best tip today is to use the biggest baking sheet that will fit in your oven, so you’ll be making fewer batches of these bad boys.

-Bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

These cookies beg for some sugar, and maybe some citrus, so you have two (easy!) options to finish them. The first is to top them with powdered sugar and lemon or lime zest. This takes seconds, looks nice, and adds a hit of sweetness. I used my zester to sift the powdered sugar, since I don’t own a sieve. Scoop a small spoonful onto the backside of your zester, holding it horizontally over your cookies. Tap the side of the zester lightly and voilà! Rinse your zester and grate some lemon (or lime—green for Christmas!) zest on top.

Your second option is to make a glaze. This is going to require some time to dry, and may make transporting the finished product more difficult. However, a glaze adds a massive hit of sugar, which is beneficial to a more muffin-y cookie. Mix half a tablespoon of milk with half a tablespoon of your flavoring of choice—lemon juice or cherry liqueur are good choices in this instance. Add confectioner’s sugar bit by bit until you have a dippable consistency (about ¾ of a cup). Dunk the tops of your (cooled!) cookies in the glaze and let dry on a rack or plate before storing (or snacking—or not, I can’t tell you how to live your best life!).

These Christmas cookies are not pink. They are not super sweet. They do not punch you in the face with bold cherry flavor. But they do have a very moist, dense consistency thanks to the cream cheese. And with a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar on top, they are a perfectly balanced bite that you and your cookie exchange participants will enjoy sharing while celebrating the holidays. Happy everything to you and yours!

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Get into the cozy Christmas mood with these festive cocktails from Claire (you know how we love a seasonal drink!). Whether you are spending a quiet night in or hosting a holiday party, Claire has you covered in the cocktail department! Let’s get mixing, Claire!

This year seems to have gone by in record time, which is good, because 2016 has been a real stinker and I’m not going to miss it when it’s done. Usually in December, all I want to do is get cozy and Christmassy, but this year I’ve been having a tougher time than I normally do getting festive. Luckily, I have devised a brilliant, alcohol-fueled plan to grease my Christmas spirit wheels, and it all starts today, as I trim my tree.

A cozy Christmas cocktail is the perfect way to fire up the holiday spirit!

As a child of a mixed-religious union, I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Chanukah, though with so many fun activities involved, Christmas always won out as the bigger deal of the two. Our family tradition was to spend Christmas day at our Grandma’s house, so we didn’t always have a tree in our house. Well, I am a strong believer in creating your own holiday traditions, so now that I have my own house, I always have a Christmas tree, no matter where I’ll be on Christmas day. The week after Thanksgiving, Pier and I go out to the tree lot, we pick out a tree, and then he helps me set it up so I can decorate it. Well, this year, Pier has had to work late all week so I went to the tree lot by myself. I tied the tree to my car by myself and then unloaded and stood it up by myself. I knew I was going to need some powerful holiday magic to get me through decorating by myself. What better than hot cocoa? I used to always make Mexican hot chocolate from scratch whenever I got a craving for cocoa, but I found that I actually wanted cocoa more often than I was willing to put the effort into the process. Since then, I have gotten smarter and/or lazier, and I have adapted my own recipe for an instant mix from Alton Brown’s own recipe (so you know it must be good).

Mix together one and a half to two cups of powdered sugar, one cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, two and a half cups of dry milk powder, two teaspoons of cornstarch, and one teaspoon of salt. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to suit your taste. I like a lot of heat in mine, so I go a little heavier on the cayenne. Just add hot water, et voilà, you’re in cocoa heaven. This mix can keep for a whole year in an air-tight container, but I doubt it will last longer than a month, especially if you prepare it the way I like it best. Put two spoonfuls of cocoa mix into your mug. Add some coffee if you have some made, or a little bit of instant espresso if you don’t. Pour in hot water, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Stir until everything is dissolved, then fill the space to the top with Irish cream. Top it with marshmallows (obviously) and you are ready to get cozy while you untangle your lights!

Cozy Christmas

Cocoa is nice while I enjoy the Fireplace for Your Home on Netflix, but it can be a little rich for everyday drinking. For something equally warming, I recommend mulled cider. Mulling spices make some of the best smells on the planet, and they go great with the piney smell of the Christmas tree. This will make your home smell like a cozy Christmas cabin. To make mulled cider, just pour some good apple juice or cider into a saucepan. Add a tangerine, either pierced with cloves, or sliced. Also add a couple of whole star anise, a good tablespoon or so of allspice berries, and two or three cinnamon sticks, cracked. I like to add some ginger to my cider as well, because I like the kick. Add a little wine, if you like, and bring the whole pot to a gentle boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, and strain. If you need an extra pick-me-up, bourbon, rum or brandy will all blend beautifully with your cider.

Cozy Christmas

Of course, the Christmas season isn’t just about cuddling. December has only just started, and I already have three parties on my calendar. Hot cider works nicely at a quiet dinner party or a bonfire, but for a traditional Christmas soiree, I’d say that punch is best. It can be made in large batches, so the host doesn’t have to tend bar, and it makes a festive and stylish centerpiece. There are a lot of ways you can go with your punch, but I think it’s nice to keep it simple. For this one, simply pour a whole bottle of sparking white wine (Prosecco, Champagne, whatever!) into your punch bowl. Add a cup of cranberry juice cocktail, half a cup of vodka, and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to taste. I like to freeze a bag of cranberries and throw them into the bowl, too. They help keep the punch cold, and they add a festive flair. I also recommend setting your punch bowl on top of a bowl of ice or some freezer packs wrapped in a napkin or towel to keep it chilled.

Cozy Christmas

Whatever you’re drinking this holiday season, I hope you are with people who love you, or at least a cat that doesn’t mind sharing the room with you. Happy holidays to you and yours.