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!