Sunday, January 17, 2010

Steven's Hot Chocolate Stand / Hot Chocolate Recipe

scroll to bottom of post for ALMOND HOT CHOCOLATE recipe

A couple of weeks ago, we were all watching the news for the weather report. It was back when the kids were excited about possible snow. I usually DO NOT allow my children to watch the news, but this was only for the weather, so we watched. The story that came after the weather was about the Central Florida Railway, our rail line here in Eustis that connects to Mt Dora and Tavares. The report was about how the rail ties were over 30 years old, and it was unsafe for the trains to run with passengers. The current owner of the railway can not afford the $100,000 it will cost to make the repairs, so he was pleading with city officials to help financially. The debate was whether or not it is worth the tax payer dollars to pitch in, or if the railway should just be shut down and stop running completely. Steven did not say a word to me or George, as we sat waiting for his reaction. He went straight up stairs and started crying on his bed. I went up to try and calm him down, and his first question was if we could go and write a $100,000 check to help. honey, we do not have that kind of money just sitting around. His next idea was for us to sell hot chocolate and collect donations. How could I say no to that? That, we could do. So, he dried his tears, and made a donation bucket. I broke out the old cricut and helped make signs to promote our cause. We set up shop on one of the coldest Friday nights, right outside the restaurant. Steven gladly made hot chocolate for lots and lots of our patrons. George sent them all out to our stand after they checked out. They were all so nice, some even donating without having hot chocolate. We had friends come out to support Steven, and that really meant a lot to us. Even a couple of the ladies from his school came by. He raised over $90.00, and the highlight for him was taking it to the train station the next morning. The folks at the station were very excited that Steven had been moved to action. We are still waiting to hear if they will get the Federal Grant they have applied for that would help pay for the repairs. Steven did ask to go sell hot chocolate again this weekend, but we had a lot planned. All who know him, know he has LOVED trains since he first picked one up at 18 months old. The rail line here in our home town is really special to him, because he has ridden it for several events including his 5th bday party. And, because we have chased it around town for years. Even though he is getting older, the trains are still close to his heart. He is such a sweet kid, and George and I are so proud of his giving nature.

Here is our hot chocolate recipe for a cold night. It's an adaptation of Melissa Lessters.

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup half and half

Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Add the boiling water and stir over medium heat until the sugar melts, and you acheive a thick liquid. Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Stir in both extracts and half and half, and remove from heat. Divide hot chocolate between 4 mugs and add a dollop of whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.

Everyone's Favorite Carrots

Jen, make sure Joey at least tries them. Let me know if he eats them. :)

Garlic Maple Carrots

5 or 6 Whole Carrots, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
course sea salt
2 TBLS grade A maple syrup

Blend olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic in small bowl. Set aside. Slice carrots and put into a large bowl. Pour olive oil mixture over carrots and blend together with your hands. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Put carrots onto cookie sheet and roast in 375* oven on upper rack .
After 10 mins of roasting, transfer cookie sheet to middle rack. Roast for another 5 mins. Remove from oven, and put back into same large prep bowl. Pour maple syrup over carrots, and mix.

Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Ok girls...this salad is my current obsession! It is so delicious and packed with lots of good for you stuff. Let me know what you think! Honestly, this could not be easier.

1 bag fresh spinach

1 pound fresh strawberries

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3 chicken strips, grilled or fried, chopped into bite size pieces

*Toss all ingredients together and pour dressing over top just before serving.

For the Dressing:

1/3 cup olive or canola oil

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 TBSP poppy seeds

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

*Combine all ingredients and shake well until sugar is dissolved

The List

George and I gathered the kids on our bed the other night and made a resolution for this year. Being that they are 7 and 5 years old, our Family resolution is to spend more time together OUTSIDE, as a family. This will be interesting for me because honestly, I'm not really an "outside girl". Don't get me wrong, I like the outdoors, but many times, Amanda Lily and I just go shopping or to a movie while the boys do the outdoor stuff. I do see the benefit in family time spent together outdoors, so I am on board. To be certain that we weren't too vague, we went around our little circle and each gave input on the things we would like to do. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall are all looking like lots of fun.

Here's our list:
Tennis (boys vs girls)
Nature Hike (in the nature preserve that is less than 5 mins up the road!)
Ice Skating
Bike Riding
Neighborhood Walk
Cannoeing and Picnic (at the Spring up the road)
Surfing (I'm hoping cheering the family on from the beach counts for me)
Roller Skating
Swimming in the pool (of course)
Playing in the community park

Now, I had the kids put "The list" on the refrigerator, but I'm actually thinking of framing it.
It has the potential of being very useful. George has 3 afternoons/nights a week off. So, when we are sitting around looking for something to do at the last minute, we can just go to the list, and choose an activity. The kids have already gone to it, and we chose Football in our community park area as our activity for that evening.
I am asking for a bicycle for my birthday, and George and I are investing in some tennis rackets.
When you really think about it, there are lots of places to go and things to do around Florida. I'm not sure about you all, but it seems I don't take advantage of the outdoors enough. I am looking forward to this New Year and all the family time I'll get, I hope you all get to spend lots of quality family time too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

Happy New Year everyone! We stayed up until midnight here at the Kountanis too! This is the first year we've done it, but Steven and Amanda Lily sure felt it was special. I overheard Amanda Lily telling Yia Yia on the phone today "I got to watch the ball drop!" Which I recall her little 5 year old mind working overtime trying to figure out what it meant that 2009 is over and it is now a new decade. She asked me every question in the book. Her biggest concern however was if the ball got broken when it "dropped." LOL. Such innocence. I wish I could just freeze time.
George set off fireworks again this year. Yall, I'm not kidding when I say they were spectacular! Thank goodness we have good neighbors! They were soooooo loud!
Anyways, I want to leave you with a poem. One of our good friends sent us a beautiful Christmas card this year that included many of her poems. I asked if she minded if I post it, and she was very shy about it, but eventually said yes. I hope we all take the time to reflect on words like these in this coming New Year. Blessings to you all.

Ring Out the Old Year

Ring out the old year...
Ring in the new...
With a silver bell chosen
Especially for you.
Just as a bell rings
With sounds that are clear...
So may a brightness
Shine throughout this year.
May you leave behind
Any worry and fear,
And take only gladness
Into the New Year.
May God bless each day
From morning's first light,
And continue His peaceful
Care through the night.
May He guide you with wisdom
As you look above,
And receive His Grace,
His Power, and His Love.
By Patricia Byrd Shamrock