Hot Chocolate with Marsh-Meows

Hot Chocolate with Cat Marshmallows Low-Res

What can be better than homemade marshmallows? How about Marsh-Meows? Cut into kitty-cat shapes, just in time to celebrate the Netflix original, The Adventures of Puss in Boots, which lands in Netflix queues on January 16. Since Puss is such a milk connoisseur, why not cuddle up to a mug of milk-based hot chocolate with floating cat marshmallows? Or usher in the new adventures of Puss in Boots with a friend. Bring a jar full of hot chocolate mix, along with wrapped Marsh-Meows and share the purr-fect chocolate treat.

Hot Chocolate with Marsh-Meows

Yield: around 20 to 25 marshmallows plus extra squares

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For the marshmallows:

Cooking spray

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

4 packages (¼ ounce each) unflavored gelatin

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract (or peppermint extract, if desired)

2 extra-large egg whites

1 cup cornstarch

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Cookie cutters in the shape of cats or paws

  1. Line a 12-inch by 18-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat parchment paper with cooking spray.
  2. Add sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.
  4. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 15 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared lined pan, quickly using a spatula to make into an even layer. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours.
  6. In a baking dish, combine cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar. Dip cookie cutters into cornstarch mixture and then cut into marshmallow sheet. To prevent sticking, making sure to dust cutters with cornstarch mixture between cuttings.
  7. Toss all the cat-shaped marshmallows with the cornstarch mixture to prevent them from sticking together. Any remaining marshmallow pieces not able to be a cat shape can be cut into pieces and still used.

For the hot chocolate:

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chip morsels

Milk, as needed

  1. In a jar, mix together the cocoa powder, sugar, and chocolate chips morsels.
  2. To prepare, bring milk and hot chocolate mix to a boil over medium-high heat in a heavy-duty pot. (Use about 2 to 3 tablespoons hot chocolate mix for 1 ¼ cups milk.) Gently whisk together until chocolate morsels are melted. Transfer to a cup and decorate with marsh-meows.

New Year’s Eve Mocktails

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Homemade sparkling cider with maraschino cherry “ice cubes”

New Year’s Eve doesn’t have to be just an adult affair. With these two mocktails, kids can get in on the fun, champagne glasses included. The first idea is Milk with Chocolate Chip Cookie Stick—pour milk into a champagne glass and then garnish with the Chocolate Chip Cookie Stick for supreme dunking. This is a chocolate chip cookie recipe baked biscotti-style—so the sticks are crunchy and can withhold dairy dipping with ease.

The second New Year’s Eve mocktail is homemade sparkling cider, which is just an easy combination of apple juice concentrate and seltzer. But here’s where the fun can come in—freeze some maraschino cherries and use them as fruity “ice cubes” in the sparkling cider. For an adult riff on this mocktail, use pomegranate seeds in the sparkling cider (which will float) instead of maraschino cherries.

So cozy up to Netflix’s original All Hail King Julien (released December 19), and ring in the new year with these celebratory mocktails.

Milk Flutes with Chocolate Chip Cookie Sticks

Makes around 14 to 18 sticks

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½ cup melted butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup mini chocolate chips

½ cup walnuts, very finely chopped (optional)

Milk, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, add melted butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the wet mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts into the cookie batter.

2. Line a 9-inch by 12-inch Pyrex dish with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Press the dough into a rectangle in the dish. Bake in the preheated oven until the cookie dough is golden on top, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at least an hour.

3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lift up the parchment paper to easily remove the chocolate chip cookie loaf from the baking pan. Place it onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut the cookie into 1-inch sticks.

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cutting into cookie sticks

4. Arrange sticks on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet so the sticks are cut side down. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the sticks sit in oven for 1 hour. Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

5. To serve, fill champagne glasses with milk. Place a chocolate chip cookie stick into the milk to serve.

Homemade Apple Cider

Makes 4 ½ cups

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1 (12-ounce) container apple juice concentrate, thawed in the fridge overnight

3 cups seltzer

Garnishes: frozen maraschino cherries or cinnamon sticks

In a pitcher, add the apple juice concentrate. Top with the seltzer, gently stirring to combine. Pour into cups or champagne glasses. Garnish with cinnamon sticks or frozen maraschino cherries.

Mini Milestones: Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

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Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods in Mason Jars

In busy, hectic times–especially with the start of cool weather signaling impending holiday craziness—it’s important to take a breather and celebrate any child mini-milestone: losing that first tooth, that first training-wheel-free bike ride, first shoelace tying or being fitted with that first pair of eyeglasses. And they all deserve little rewards.

I’ve always enjoyed the sweet-salty combo of chocolate-covered pretzels. But using pretzel rods and dusting them afterwards in candy ups the ante to create an impressive yet easy treat, perfect for a milestone celebration. The real fun and creativity comes in the abundance of what to roll the chocolate-covered pretzels in:

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Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods Topping Choices

Roll these in your kid’s favorite candy or sweet item. From Oreo dust (or Wilton’s Cookies & Cream Crunch), shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or sprinkles—really the sky is the limit. Basically, anything pulverized into small pieces in a food processor works. Then, pile these pretzels into a mason jar, a wide-mouthed glass, or even a vase. Tie with a ribbon and ring in this newest mini milestone along with Netflix’s October titles in the same vein, like “Arthur: Through the Looking Glasses.”

Keep these gorgeous pretzels in mind for any homemade gift-giving as well—just wrap each one individually in cellophane and tie with a ribbon.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

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Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

Yield: about 16 pretzels

½ (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate morsels

16 pretzel rods or 1 (8-ounce) box

Various toppings: shredded coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, crushed Oreos, crushed toffee, etc.

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. Make a double boiler to melt the chocolate. Fill a medium heavy-duty pot almost halfway with water. Bring to a rolling simmer over medium-high heat. Add chocolate into a heat-proof medium bowl and place on top of the simmering water. Let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted, a few minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a flat Pyrex dish or baking dish (at least 8 inches wide to fit pretzel rods), add the topping to coat the bottom.

4. Using an oven mitt or a dish towel, carefully move the bowl with the chocolate off the pot. Using a spatula, stir the chocolate until completely melted and smooth. Working quickly, use a small spatula or knife to spread the chocolate over two-thirds of the pretzel. Gently shake the pretzel, letting any chocolate excess drip off.

5. Roll the chocolate-covered pretzel in the topping, fully covering the chocolate. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzel rods. If the chocolate becomes difficult to work with, just place back over the double boiler for a few minutes until melty again.

6. When done, refrigerate pretzels on the baking sheet about 1 hour to let chocolate harden. Place in an airtight container for up to a week.

Note: If you’re wanting to go the white chocolate route, use white chocolate wafers or disks. Available in a variety of colors, these also melt far superior to white chocolate chips. To make white chocolate swirls on the semi-sweet chocolate like I have, melt the white chocolate in the double boiler; transfer to a small Ziploc bag. Snip off a tiny corner of the end and drizzle the white chocolate over the dark.

Brain Booster: Strawberry-Yogurt Swirl Popsicles

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The swirling is the best part of making these–for adults and kids alike.

I’m obsessed with brain foods. In a sense, these foods have been scientifically dissected and are known to wire your brain with a focused energy. They’re also assumed to keep your mind sharp for years to come. Berries are one of the best brain foods there are–blueberries seem to have the highest amount of brain power, but all berries rate very high. (Other honorable mentions are salmon, eggs, and nuts.) I took that knowledge to create the most brain-boosting popsicles possible by merging berries with brain-friendly pomegranate juice and the protein powerhorse, Greek yogurt. Watermelon juice is added for sweetness, so less honey is needed.

In light of the dog days of summer, where kids’ brains are also on hiatus along with school, Netflix has rolled out featured educational shows like Leap Frog: Math Adventure to the Moon to documentaries like National Geographic: Secret Yellowstone and When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions. My husband is a teacher and will sometimes incorporate documentaries like these to jazz up a science lesson for his students. So he’s especially grateful to these year-round. Pair a popsicle with an educational program via Netflix to keep your kids’ brain active throughout summer. The popsicles are so refreshing and scrumptious, kids don’t need to know that they’re good for them as well. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles2

These brain-powered babies aren’t just for dessert–they also work as a snack or for breakfast.

Strawberry-Yogurt Swirl Popsicles

Two cups of any type of berries can be used, whether that’s blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.

Yield: 6 to 8 Popsicles, depending on mold size

1 cup chopped watermelon

2 cups sliced strawberries (about 1 pound strawberries)

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice

3 tablespoons honey, divided

1 cup no-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt

1. In the bowl of a food processor, add watermelon, strawberries, pomegranate juice, and 1 tablespoon honey. Process about 1 minute until mixture turns into a puree. Taste; add just a bit more honey, if needed; a lot of this depends on the sweetness of the watermelon and strawberries.

2. In a small bowl, combine together yogurt and remaining 2 tablespoons honey.

3. Fill the popsicle molds: First, pour the strawberry mixture in the bottom of each popsicle mold. Spoon yogurt into it; again, top with strawberry mixture and then yogurt. Use a wooden popsicle stick or a skewer to swirl the strawberry mixture and yogurt together. Place in the freezer overnight.

4. To remove from popsicle molds, hold under warm water until popsicle can be easily pulled free of mold. Serve.

 

A Parfait Shrek Would Love

 

I never would have thought to take food advice from a cartoon character, but Donkey in Shrek made a valid point:

Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious!

Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.

Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!

And who can argue with that? In celebration of Netflix’s new slew of musical-themed titles like Shrek the Musical, I created a green parfait that Shrek and Donkey can both dig their spoons into.

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A Jell-O layered Shrek Parfait in the back with a Jell-O free one in the front.

Parfaits can be a great wholesome breakfast or a light dessert. Here’s the key to get kids to dig all the way through the granola, yogurt, and fruit—there’s a layer of Jell-O cubes at the bottom. I discovered the idea of adding Jell-O into layered desserts when working on developing recipes for Knickerbocker Glories—yes, like those in Harry Potter. They have layers of fruit, ice cream, nuts, cake, Jell-O and  more, with the Jell-O adding a jiggly, fun dimension to the treat.

Shrek-Parfait

As another nod to Shrek, this parfait harnesses green elements like the Lime Jell-O, kiwi slices and green grapes. Placing the grapes into the freezer the night before gives an added cold, crunchy element. If you haven’t discovered the allure of frozen grapes, you’re in for a treat. I try to always keep some on hand in the freezer–they’re perfect to pop into your mouth, especially during the summer months. Here’s another tip—I used to consider it such a war trying to get the kiwi fruit out of its skin until I learned this trick: cut a ripe kiwi in half and then work a small spoon around the edge of the fruit’s flesh, rotating throughout the kiwi until the kiwi half is loosened from the skin.

Shrek’s Kiwi-Yogurt Parfait

For an adult version of the parfait, skip the Jell-O; stir in 2 teaspoons lime zest into the Greek yogurt along with the honey and add a layer of shredded coconut into the parfait for a tropical flair.

Yield: 2 to 4 parfaits, depending on glass size. 

Jell-O optional Parfait

Jell-O optional Parfait

1 (3-ounce) package Lime Jell-O (optional)

2 cups green grapes

1 (17.6-ounce) container plain 0% or 2% Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

4 to 6 ripe kiwis

1 to 2 cups granola or cereal

If using Jell-O, the night before making the parfait, prepare Jell-O according to package directions. And while you’re at it, add washed grapes into a large Ziplock bag and place in the freezer.

To prepare, if using the Jell-O, cut into cubes. Open the yogurt container and swirl honey into it, stirring to combine. Slice the grapes in half and chop or slice each kiwi.

The exact amount of fruit and yogurt used in the parfait will depend a lot of the size of your glass—I like to use a parfait glass like the one pictured, a wine glass or even a small mason jar. Start layering the parfait by adding a couple spoonfuls of yogurt into the bottom. Then, layer with optional Jell-O, grapes, kiwi slices, more spoonfuls of yogurt and then lastly topping with granola.

Homemade Jell-O Pudding Pop Recipe

Homemade-Jello-Chocolate-Pudding-Pops-Recipe

Are you drooling yet?

For April, Netflix has assembled an assortment of movies and television shows that wax 70s and 80s nostalgic. We’re talking classics like Saved by the Bell (a total favorite of mine), Baby-sitters Club, Family Ties, Smurfs, and more. When you think 80s in food terms, what enters your mind? I go straight to Fun Dips, Pop Rocks, and none other than those Jell-O Pudding Pops. As a child of the 80s, I remember sweater-clad Bill Cosby constantly on television with those Pudding Pops commercials, making my mouth water each and every time.

Even though Jell-O Pudding Pops were somewhat of an 80s phenomenon, they pulled a disappearing act in the 90s for reasons unknown. But don’t fret, because they are easily recreated. Now, you can show your kids exactly what they’ve been missing.

Pudding Pops are essentially frozen chocolate pudding using a cornstarch-based, dairy-rich pudding. I think 2 percent milk strikes a perfect balance but feel free to use whatever type of milk is hanging out in your fridge, whether it’s whole milk or skim. For a dairy-free option, soy milk or almond milk is a great substitute. There are also two ways to go with how to freeze them–either in whatever Popsicle mold you have on hand or by using those cute Dixie cups to recreate that Jell-O Pudding Pop look:

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Using Dixie cups as molds harnesses the more traditional Pudding Pop look.

Now doesn’t this look like what you grew up on? If you use Dixie cups to mold the Pudding Pops, after they’re frozen, use scissors to cut away the cup from the Popsicle. It’s a quick and simple trick to remove the Pudding Pop in one simple motion.

Using Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding is totally ok; just make 1 box of 3.4-ounce pudding mix according to directions. Pour it into 4 to 6 Popsicle molds and freeze overnight. However, this recipe has more of a pow of chocolate than the pudding mix can provide and is made in less than 10 minutes flat. Either way, if your family is anything like mine, coming home to a late afternoon snack of Pudding Pops (for kids and grown-ups alike) is greeted with total excitement. And a hastily-eaten Pudding Pop.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Pop Recipe
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Any extra chocolate pudding that can’t fit into a popsicle mold can be devoured once it cools, much to the satisfaction of kids.
Yield: 8 to 10 pudding pops

1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅓ cup cornstarch
Pinch salt
3 ½ cups 2-percent milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the chocolate pudding: In a heavy-duty medium pot (that is off the heat), add sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Use a whisk to mix it together, essentially creating your own Jell-O instant pudding mix. Add in the milk and vanilla; turn the heat to medium-high, whisking the mixture vehemently until no clumps remain. Continue stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble, about 4 to 6 minutes. Once mixture is at a roaring simmer, cook 1 minute longer, still whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency. Pour into a heat-resistant measuring cup, because the spout helps pour the pudding into the molds mess-free.

Make using Popsicle molds: Immediately pour the hot chocolate pudding into 8 to 10 Popsicle molds. Let them sit until cool, about 1 to 2 hours. Fasten the handles into the Popsicle molds and freeze overnight. To unmold, hold the Popsicle under hot running water for about 15 to 30 seconds. Press onto the mold to remove the pudding pop, gently twisting and keeping mold under running water until it is released. Whatever you do, don’t fiercely pull the handle! The handle will come right out without the pudding pop (And, yes, I learned this the hard way.).

Make using Dixie cups: Immediately pour the hot chocolate pudding into 8 to 10 small Dixie cups. Let them sit until cool, about 1 to 2 hours. When pudding is cool, insert wooden Popsicle sticks into the middle of each cup; freeze overnight. To unmold, use scissors to cut down the side of the Dixie cups, peeling off the cup from the pudding pop.