Plaid is EVERYWHERE this season. Everywhere.
I suppose plaid is one of those prints that has always been around and probably always will be. Its iconic and festive and wintery and lumberjacky. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Wearing plaid is like channeling a lumberjack. Except these days, plaid is so much cuter when you pair a tailored flannel shirt with a great pair of heels, leather leggings, and a vest. Not going to lie, I have this entire outfit right here.
All you really need is a really great wreath or some garland, and you’re all set for a holiday themed photo shoot.
(P.S. Thanks Mindy Mae!)
Personally, I’ve had my eye on the very popular plaid blanket scarves that seem to be popping up on every fashion blog this season. Every time I decide I was to buy one, they sell out. I’m too indecisive in the moment, and for that reason, I likely won’t get a blanket scarf probably until summer 2015. Then, it will not be festive anymore, and I will probably use it as a picnic blanket. Multifunctional.
Also amazing? These plaid mugs I used for this post. When I saw them at Old Navy, I just had to buy them; I would figure out what to use them for later. They were so just so cute and festive and plaid. Obviously, you now know that I’m using this post as a way to justify my impulsive plaid buying mug decision AND talk about Christmas. (Because plaid= Christmas. Duh.) There are worse things in life, I suppose.
My mom’s side of the family is German, so we don’t celebrate Christmas day as the biggest Christmas holiday. I know that sounds odd, and I just phrased that very awkwardly, but I don’t know any other way to say it. The biggest holiday for us is actually Christmas Eve. We open our presents from one another on Christmas Eve (Santa’s presents are for Christmas day), our biggest, fanciest meal is on Christmas Eve, and we always make sure that when traveling, we’re together on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day if we can’t make it to both. In the German culture, we also celebrate the advents that happen during the whole month of December. For example, Nikolaustag, on December 6th, is the day that celebrates St. Nicholas, and on December 5th, children put out their shoes to be filled overnight with candy by good ol’ St. Nick. The advent calendar actually originated in Germany, and was historically used by both children and adults to track the special days during December. Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas markets, like the famous Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg or Chicago, was another tradition long held in Germany to celebrate the advents and to provide a venue for wintery gift buying. There is indeed a reason why German glass ornaments are, by far, the best.
On the 4th Sunday before Christmas, a Adventskranz, or a wreath, usually with candles, is set up to both welcome Christ and officially marks the start of the Christmas season. (Imagine my surprise when I got old enough to realize that other families actually started their Christmas decorating at the same time as Halloween. I was so. confused.)
Want another German Christmas tradition? Christmas trees usually aren’t set up, cut down, and decorated until Christmas Eve, hence one of the reasons why Christmas Eve is marked as the biggest Christmastime holiday during the season in the German culture.
During my maternal Christmas celebrations, our Christmas desserts were Stollen (Fruit cake, but not the gross kind. It is very different from the kind you are probably thinking of, and usually has raisins or nuts with powdered sugar.), Glühwein (Hot, mulled wine), Spritzgebäck (Spiced cookies, usually with nutmeg and cinnamon), Pfeffernüsse (Nutmeg, clove, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper spiced cookies with powdered sugar), German-Swiss milk chocolate (The best), Lebkuchen (Gingerbread, usually round in shape and either dipped in chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar), and crescent cookies, which I don’t know how to say in German, but they too are dusted with, you guessed it, powdered sugar.
Another big thing in Germany over the Christmas holidays, which has become quite popular in the U.S. is marzipan. This decadent dessert is actually pronounced as “mah-zee-pahn” in German, not “mar-zee-pan” like people here in the U.S. say. I cannot tell you how many times I was made fun of in 4th grade for insisting that everyone was saying the name wrong; even my teacher didn’t believe me. Mrs. Mosch, I hope you are reading this. (16 years later, and I am still thinking or marzipangate from 4th grade.) I am now going to try to spread the word that almost everyone in the U.S. has been saying marzipan wrong their whole lives.
As I get older, I’ve started to make my own Christmas traditions. I still honor my German background, but also make sure to tie in traditions from my dad’s side of the family, like actually celebrating Christmas Day (Christmas for 2 days in a row for me! Hooray!), putting up decorations a tad earlier than the 4th of December and Christmas eve, and having a hot chocolate bar.
Yep, that’s right, a hot chocolate bar. (With plaid mugs ;) ) This post is actually so long, that I’ve split them into two posts: 1 today with the “anatomy” of a hot chocolate bar and recipes for all the garnishes, and one post tomorrow with several variations of paleo hot chocolates. Make sure you’re subscribed via email to make sure you get both posts in this two part series. Oh, and drink your hearts out and have a safe and very Merry Christmas, or Frohe Weihnachten, with you and yours.
Today's post: anatomy of a hot chocolate bar, Paleo Hot Chocolate Base, Sweet Cream Pistachio Garnish, Paleo Coconut Sugar Candied Orange Rinds, Paleo Sea Salted Caramel, Paleo Chocolate Sauce.
Anatomy of a Paleo Hot Chocolate Bar
- Paleo Marshmallows (Recipes for paleo peppermint mocha ones here and pumpkin spice ones here. If you are so inclined, here is a recipe for a classic paleo marshmallow recipe.)
- Paleo Sea Salted Caramel Sauce (Recipe listed below)
- Dark Chocolate for melting (>70%) (or you can use the chocolate sauce recipe, below)
- Ground Cayenne pepper for Mexican Hot Chocolate
- Paleo Candied Orange Rinds (Recipe listed below)
- Sweet Cream Pistachio Garnish (Recipe listed below)
- Fresh, organic raspberries (Or strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
- Crumbled waffle pieces (I like this recipe here.)
- Ground cinnamon, or cinnamon sticks for festive stirring
- Sticks for stirring
- Pistachios to munch on
- Fresh mint leave for garnish
- Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies (I like the recipes here and here.)
- Not paleo mint candies (But I just loved the festive colors)
Essentially, the fantastic thing about putting on a hot chocolate bar is that your guests (or yourself) can be as creative as they want to. All you really need to do is lay out all your ingredients and then make your paleo hot chocolate base, which I have listed below, along with all the other aforementioned recipes.
Tomorrow, I’ll be giving you all 5 different recipes you can make from this bar. Want a hint? One is a Paleo Cookie-Waffle Hot Chocolate with Salted Caramel-Chocolate Drizzle. Swoon.
Paleo Hot Chocolate
Makes 5-6 mugs of hot chocolate (This recipe easily downsizes if desired.)
- 6 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp. high quality vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup organic honey
- Rounded, generous ½ cup cacoa powder
- 2 tsp. instant coffee granules*
- Place all ingredients in a large pot. Mix until almost combined.
- Heat on medium heat, until hot chocolate almost comes to a simmer.
- Continue to heat until hot chocolate become frothy, but carefully watch, because the pot can easily overboil. (And create quite the chocolatey mess.)
- Ladle into mugs and serve immediately
Sweet Cream Pistachio Garnish
Makes approximately ½ cup
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 8 dates
- 3 tbsp. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- Place all ingredients in a food processer and pulse into well mixed and slightly creamy
Paleo Coconut Sugar Candied Orange Rinds
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
- 3 large oranges
- 1 cup water, plus additional for simmering process
- 1 cup coconut sugar plus additional to taste
- Peel oranges by cutting off ends and then carefully peeling off rinds in large chunks.
- Slice orange rinds into long strips, about ½ inch thick. Save oranges for later recipes…or to just eat.
- Put orange rinds in a pot, and cover with water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain water.
- Repeat step #3 2 more times. This will be a total of simmering the orange rinds for 45 minutes with 3 new batches of water. This removes the bitterness.
- After draining the final round of simmering water, add 1 cup of water with 1 cup of coconut sugar. Heat on low, until water and sugar thickens into a syrup. Watch carefully, as this mixture can burn near the end.
- Once water and coconut sugar has formed a thick syrup over the orange rinds, remove from heat and stir to ensure that rinds are evenly coated.
- Once cool enough to handle, place each rind on a cooling rack, with parchment paper underneath to catch any drips. Be careful not to overlap.
- Let dry for 5-6 hours, or until completely dry.
Paleo Sea Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cup
- 1 Can Coconut milk (full-fat is best, but you can get away with the “light” versions)
- ½ cup honey
- 2 tbsp. grass-fed butter
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. coarse, large-grain sea salt, plus additional for garnish (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce until bubbling and let reduce and thicken for about 45-60 minutes. Watch closely and stir often to ensure that it doesn’t stick and burn at the bottom.
- Once mixture is darker in color and the consistency of slightly thinned caramel sauce, take off heat and set aside. The caramel will thicken further as it cools.
- Use immediately or store for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.
Paleo Chocolate Sauce
Makes about ½ cup
- 7 oz. chopped dark chocolate pieces
- 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter
- 1 tsp. honey
- In a double boiler, melt all ingredients and whisk until well combined.*
*Lets be serious, a microwave works just fine as long as you stir it often to make sure it doesn’t scald.