My Perfect Homemade Student Christmas Gift: Hot Cocoa

If there’s one type of gift you will likely never see me give students, it’s a hand-made craft.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those types of gifts – I think they’re fabulous. I am just a TERRIBLE crafter!

Luckily, we have Joy Morin for those types of student gifts. She has lots of great homemade ideas over on her site including paper ornaments, glass ornaments, and mittens.

What my students WILL get from me is some kind of baked good or food item. My favorite over the years has been a homemade hot chocolate mix.


Let’s take an important poll first: Do you call it “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”? Put your vote in the comments! 🙂


Since I cycle through different gifts each year so students who are with me for a long time don’t always get the same thing, I’ve actually only done this twice!

Hot chocolate is such as fun idea though because what kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?

 

Making Homemade Hot (You Fill in the Blank! 🙂 )

Consider recipes that are made with powdered milk so students only have to add hot water.  Along those same lines, I would advise you to not do the layered-type cocoa mix where you have to dump the whole container into a pot to mix.

My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Country, but since it’s a paid recipe service, here are some other versions you could try from Pioneer Woman and AllRecipes. 

What they all have in common:

  • Dry milk powder
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Confectioner’s sugar (dissolves better than white sugar)

(P.S. the only thing Cook’s Country adds is white chocolate chips and a bit of salt.)

Since the CC recipe uses white chocolate chips, they have you mix the recipe in a food processor to get the chips into smaller pieces so they will dissolve better/quicker.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you process dry powder stuff in a food processor. It’s a blustery mess! LOL

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Food Prep and the Studio Schedule

Are you wondering why in the world you’re seeing a food post on a piano teacher blog? 

Well, first of all, if you don’t know me already, besides piano teaching, one of my life passions is cooking.

Second, we eat, right?

Third, as we can all attest, the schedule of the independent music teacher can make mealtime a struggle – especially if you have a family. After school and early evening is prime time for both music lessons AND asking the universal question “what’s for supper?” If you’re the person in your family who’s generally in charge of mealtime, this can make for a real struggle!

Today I want to share with you my three biggest food prep tips for keeping your meal-time work efficient and organized. Then, when you walk out the door of your studio late evening, you can breathe easy knowing dinner will be ready in a jiffy.

Also, stay tuned for a new post series coming up called Music Teacher Eats for meal plan ideas that are easy, healthy, and quick to prepare!

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Back-To-Teaching: Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead

The first couple of weeks back to teaching are always a little hectic. We’re trying to enjoy the final days of Summer, holding on to every last inch of that time until we have to throw ourselves completely into the new year.

The months of January and August have always been the months we eat at home almost exclusively. In January it’s quiet and dark, and there’s not a lot of extra activities going on and in August, I don’t have students half the month so I’m home more and have time to cook dinner like normal people.

Things are about to get crazy this week though and will continue that way until the second week of October. I won’t bore you with my details as you have enough going on of your own.

Since many of us are in the same boat as we get things going, I thought I would share half-a-dozen quick and easy recipes that can make your back-to-teaching life easier.

Most of the recipes will also allow you to enjoy end-of-summer produce and will avoid turning on the oven. You’re not going to find a crockpot or soup recipe in this bunch. It’s too early for that – I’m not ready!

 

Six Easy “Back-To-Teaching” recipes

Panzanella Bread Salad (Simply Recipes)

If you’ve never had Panzanella bread salad with your beautiful, lush, red, juicy August tomatoes, you have not experienced life.

Can you see what I mean?

While you’re making the salad, throw pork chops in a cast iron skillet seasons simply with S&P and call that a meal.

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Sound Recipes 

Barefoot Contessa at Home

In the “Sound Recipes” series, I will review a cookbook from my collection and share the top, most “sound” recipes from the book that have become staples in my kitchen. You can expect to see a post in this series between 1-3 times a year.

Do you have a cookbook that’s like “home” to you – one that you go to over and over again? It may be the one you had the longest, the one your grandmother passed on, or the one with the most tried and true recipes.

For me, that book is Ina Garten’s 2006 cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.

After my husband and I married in 2002, I quickly learned that I needed to up-my-game from the recipes of my childhood. I wanted to learn to how to use more herbs as opposed to butter and sour cream for flavor and cook fresh vegetables rather than sprucing up canned.

With the help of the (new at the time) Americas Test Kitchen on Saturday morning PBS and Ina Garten in her Barefoot Contessa series on Food Network, I slowly began to experience food differently.

This was one of the first cookbooks I purchased and used outside of the church cookbooks from both of our childhoods and the Better Homes and Gardens one I got as a wedding present.

I swear everything Ina makes turns out perfect. Her recipes are truly “sound.”

Let me share with you why you would love this cookbook and some of my favorite recipes to tempt you. Continue reading

Sound Recipes 

Giada’s Feel Good Food

In my new series, “Sound Recipes,” I will review a cookbook from my collection and share the top, most “sound” recipes from the book that have become staples in my kitchen. You can expect to see a post in this series between 1-3 times a year.

Sound Recipes Giada FGF

 

I love cookbooks. There’s something about flipping through pages of a beautiful cookbook that makes the prospect of cooking satisfying food every day more viable. Especially ones with glossy pages that aren’t too cumbersome to hold and have LOTS of photos.

Despite the fact that I love cookbooks, I’m careful not to purchase too many. Because I like to suck the life out of each one (make as many of the recipes as possible), if I get too many, it makes me feel like the possibility of making everything I want much less attainable.

I often start a cookbook, use it for a month or two then get bored and stop for several months. A year later, I return to it, remake some of the recipes I liked the first time (to confirm I still like them), then finish making everything else that appeals to me.

I always make notes directly on the pages of the cookbook including when I made it, how much I liked the recipe, if I would do it again, and any points to note for the next time.

recipe-notes

 

This book, although not my favorite, just happened to be the one I came back to this summer because it’s healthy food. I always feel a little more inspired to eat healthy in the summer.

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