Thursday, November 28, 2013

Homemade Hot Cocoa

Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living
Homemade Hot Cocoa
See all the dark chocolate swimming around in that rich and creamy cup of steamy hot cocoa?  If we hadn't drank all of it last night, I'd be sitting here with a cup right now.  Then again, there might be some chocolate left in the pantry.  As soon as I'm done here, I'm going to go see.

Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living

 There are all kinds of cocoa. There are instant, homemade, kid friendly and of course adult versions. So let's start with your favorite version of cocoa or hot chocolate mix, whether that is from a package or a secret family recipe passed down through the generations.  If you don’t have a favorite, here is one I think you might enjoy.

Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living
Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Non-Dairy Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
  • 8 ounces Chocolate (candy bars, baking chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:  


Chop the chocolate very finely.  If you’re using dark chocolate you might need to sweeten your drink a bit.  However, if you’re using milk chocolate, you might not.  Hey, how about making your cocoa with white chocolate!
Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living

In a medium saucepan, bring the non-dairy milk and vegan butter (milk, cream, and butter for those of you who prefer the real thing) to a low simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally.  Watch closely because milk has a tendency to scald if it gets lonely.

Add the chocolate and vanilla. Whisk vigorously until all of the chocolate has melted. Reduce the heat and cook for an additional 4 minutes, whisking constantly.
Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living

If you use almond, peppermint, or another type of extract you might need to adjust the measurement to taste.  Or you could try Moser Roth Mint Dark Chocolate.  I find that one or two bars is plenty to give a really minty flavor.
Homemade Hot Mint Cocoa by Substance of Living

Serves 4 generously


Hot cocoa is a splurge for me.  I like to enjoy the fire and friends with cocoa.  During the winter, try creating a Cocoa Bar.  It’s simple.  Have on hand: peppermint liqueur, Irish cream, vanilla vodka, whipped cream, sprinkles of choice, candy canes during the holidays, coffee flavored liqueur, rum, instant coffee granules (mocha baby!).

What do you think of when you hear the words "Hot Cocoa"? Do you think of playing in the snow building snowmen or planning snowball fights? Coming in from a day of sledding and sitting by the fire? Or how about ski vacations and quiet evenings with friends or a special someone?
Homemade Hot Cocoa by Substance of Living

* If you're more of a traditionalist and enjoy the guilty pleasures of whole milk and cream, you might try using 3 1/2 cups whole milk along with 1/2 cup heavy cream in place of the non-dairy milk.  You might also like to switch out the vegan butter for real butter.

**I don't add any sugar to my hot cocoa but if you like it a little sweeter, you could add some sugar, honey, agave syrup or use milk chocolate.


P.S.,  Please share your family's favorite winter holiday drink.

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Substance of Living

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Christmas (NOT Holiday) Poem

I'm not usually one for spouting off my political beliefs but this poem came in from a reader and I had to share with you.


Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
Why the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday'.
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-Pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS,
not Happy Holiday!
Please, all Christians join together and
wish everyone you meet
MERRY CHRISTMAS
Christ is The Reason' for the Christ-mas Season!







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Monday, November 18, 2013

9 Beautiful Hanukkah Table Settings

Many years ago, when I first learned about Hanukkah, I thought it was Christmas for eight days.  I mean, can you imagine receiving gifts for days on end rather than having to wait for one specific day?  Also, I liked the idea that it came at different times in the winter months.  I had heard that it might come as early as November!  Can you imagine Christmas in November?!

As much as I like the idea of getting presents on a daily basis, I've never been really good with the whole advent thing.  I tend to want my gifts all at once.  What a glutton I am.  Hey, what can I say, I want to eat the whole cake in one sitting.

Talk about lack of control. DH would absolutely vouch for this oh-so-positive trait in me.  :-)

Since that time, I've learned a lot about rationing and not having it all in one sitting.  Don't get me wrong, that little girl is still in there wanting it all and NOW!  I didn't just want my two front teeth for Christmas.

Seriously...

There is so much more to Hanukkah than the gifts.  The holiday is full of tradition and history.  Learn more about Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukkah).

If you are new to Hanukkah, hosting a dinner, or wanting to expand your knowledge you might want to reference My Jewish Learning, The Shiksa in the Kitchen, and Hanukkah Celebrations.

After a little reading, you might be more tempted at hosting your first Hanukkah dinner.   We've gone out into the big world called the internet and corralled some stunning table decorations and ideas for you.


Haute Hanukkah Decorating Ideas by HGTV
Haute Hanukkah Decorating Ideas

Did you know that a Menorah actually has seven candles (or branches) and a Chanukiah has nine?

Chanukiah

Lighting of the Chanukiah by Hebrew4Christians
Lighting of the Chanukiah

Menorah

7 Branch Menorah by Double Portion Inheritance
7 Branch Menorah

If you don't have a Chanukiah or Menorah, you can use tea lights or small votive candles on either side of a more substantial candle as seen below.  (Be sure to check out the website for additional ideas on how to create your own version.)

Hanukkah Table by Tribridge Residential
Hanukkah Table

This is another table that is a perfect DIY.  White table cloth (sheet or blanket) with a blue runner (scarf or narrow scrap fabric).  Then you can take some blue beads or candies along with white beads or candy-coated almonds scattered down the length of the runner and strategically place some small dreidels.

Hanukkah Party Table by I Made Dinner
Hanukkah Party with a little Spice

A very elegant table to honor all guests is one that incorporates Hanukkah and Christmas.  Choose Hanukkah colors in Christmas ornaments or decor.

Hanukkah Inspired Christmas Table by My Colortopia
Hanukkah and Christmas Blended Table

We've seen nature brought to the table in other posts but the use of a simple pine cone to offer a greeting or used to let guests know where to sit works quite elegantly with the rest of the table.  A light coat of silver or pastel silvery/blue spray painted over the pine cone would add a frost touch.

Winter Wonderland Hanukkah Table by SWT Boutique
Winter Wonderland Hanukkah Table

This table setting not only transcends Hanukkah, Winter, and Christmas but would make a festive setting for New Year's Eve.

House of Blues by Vicki Horton at Corner Paint
A Table of Peace for Hanukkah and the Holidays

Aren't you loving these table ideas?  It truly is amazing how creative people are and their willingness to share.

This next table crosses the borders with the classic use of silver.  Blending blue, white, and silver together makes one of the boldest statements without having to scream.

This table setting was originally published as a New Year's Eve table and yet it spoke to me for Hanukkah.
New Year's Eve Table by the Minmalisti
Classic Blue, White, and Silver Hanukkah Table Setting

I couldn't actually find the original location of this table but Porter House Designs references Rol.vn.

Here is another DIY Hanukkah table.  Keep the table bare or use brown craft paper as the "table cloth" and run an extra-wide strip of aluminum foil down the center as the "runner".  Then add an unadorned fruit or vegetable can along with friendly daisies as the centerpiece.  The part that stands out the most to me is the use of a shiny pipe cleaner or wire shaped for the "napkin ring".

This may not be the most sophisticated table but certainly everyone would be light-hearted and comfortable.  Who says wine doesn't taste the same from a plastic glass, tall tumbler or a stemmed crystal glass?
Recycled or Found Hanukkah Table by Porter House Designs
Recycled or Found Hanukkah Table

With a sweet present waiting for each guest and the Bible sitting in a prominent location, what else is needed?

A Perfect Home for Hanukkah by bcliving
A Place of Honor at the Hanukkah Table

Additional sites for learning about Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays, please visit Chabad, Hebrew 4 Christians or About.com.

Will you be celebrating Hanukkah this year?  If so, what traditions do you follow?  Can you recommend additional reading?






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Thursday, November 14, 2013

3 Southern Thanksgiving Tables

What I've learned living in the south is that Southerners really are about family.  I think it might be because they like to cook.  (Or is that me wanting to fit in because I have lived in the south for so long, enjoy cooking, and having company around my table?)  It's common to find the family gathered together for Sunday suppers.

Thanksgiving seems to be an excuse to have a Sunday supper during the week.

Another thing I've learned living in the south is that holidays are HUGE events.  Everyone is invited. 

Not enough room or tables?  No problem.  Move the furniture around and instead of eating in the dining room, eat in the family room or spread the tables throughout the house.  The finest dishes are used no matter how fancy or simple and whether or not they match.

This first table makes me think of a tea house or a romantic setting in an historical hotel.  The rich colors, napkin holders, and the overall elegance takes me back to the Victorian era.
Thanksgiving Table by Living Life Southern Style
Living Life Southern Style

Speaking of moving furniture around, look at this beautiful outdoor table.  Many locations in the south are able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner outside.
Outdoor Thanksgiving Table by Sweet Iced Tea
Sweet Iced Tea


Set a simple table with elegant touches such as the napkin ring and the single mini pumpkins.  Keeping the food on a side buffet keeps the dinner table clear.
Thanksgiving Table by Mrs. Betty Bargain
Mrs. Betty Bargain


It doesn't really matter where you live or how the table looks or even what food is served on Thanksgiving day.  What does matter is that you are with those that you love.  Family and true friends are the real blessings at any table.

What are some of your family's Thanksgiving traditions?  Have you created new traditions for your family?


Please share me with your friends! Please forward this post to your friends or better yet share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  THANKS!  Your comments and help in spreading the news about this site is ALWAYS appreciated!  Be sure to sign up to receive future articles delivered directly to your inbox.
Substance of Living


Friday, November 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Buffet

Is it your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner this year?  Why not make it a casual affair by setting up a buffet.  That way everyone can dish their own plate and the big reason is to allow more room in the center of the table for your beautiful tablescape!

Thanksgiving Tablescape by Between Naps on the Porch
Thanksgiving Tablescape by Between Naps on the Porch

Here's the menu to make life a little easier.

Buffet Table by Divine Dinner Party
Buffet Table by Divine Dinner Party

Thanksgiving Buffet Dinner Menu


Deviled Eggs (This can be made the day before)
Apple, Cranberry Walnut Salad tossed in a Brown Sugar Glaze

Roasted Corn on the Cob
Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce (This can be made the day before or open the can and refrigerate on serving dish)

Green Bean Casserole (This can be assembled the day before minus the french fried onions)

Sweet Potato Souffle (This can be prepped a day or two ahead)
Cornbread Stuffing (This can be prepped a day or two ahead)
Herb Roasted Turkey (Thaw according to USDA guidelines)
Slow Roasted Beef with Au Jus and Horseradish Cream
Dinner Rolls with Butter
Pumpkin Pie (This can be made a couple days ahead) with Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee, Tea or Soda

Thanksgiving Buffet Table 2012
Thanksgiving Buffet Table 2012

You might also want to consider dividing the menu up among your guests (even if your guests are the immediate family).  Each person can be responsible for one or two items.  For example, one of the smaller children might take pride in making the deviled eggs or preparing the beverage table.  One of the older children might like to prepare the dessert table and of course the man in your life would absolutely adore you if you asked him to prepare the roast beef.

If you're inviting families or couples over to dinner, they might ask if they can bring a dish (accept the generous offer) and you will already have the menu ready to offer up some suggestions.

P.S.,  What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?  Do you have a favorite dish you prepare each year?

Please share me with your friends! Please forward this post to your friends or better yet share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  THANKS!  Your comments and help in spreading the news about this site is ALWAYS appreciated!  Be sure to sign up to receive future articles delivered directly to your inbox.
Substance of Living

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are You the Lucky Winner of the General Mills Giveaway?

*** WINNER of the General Mills Giveaway announcement! ***

This was such a fun contest and I enjoyed reading all of your comments.  I hope I've been able to catch up and follow each of you back.  Will you please let me know if I've missed one?

Cheryl F. was our blessed winner!

Cheryl F. was entry number 22 chosen by Random.org.  An email has been sent and you have until Saturday, November 9, 2013 to respond or a new winner will have to be (unfortunately/fortunately) selected.  Please send your email to substanceofliving at gmail dot com.

Congratulations!  You've won a great prize and hopefully you will send us a picture of what you received and let us know how you will use your gift.

Substance of Living's Green Giant Giveaway Winning Number Chosen by Random.org
Cheryl F.'s Winning Number
Names of entrants and their subsequent entry numbers as they were received:

Elis Brockway 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Carol Ezovski 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 1,6, 17, 18
Rachel Wooldridge Lewter 19, 20, 21
Cheryl F. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Abedabun Dawn 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39

Be sure to stay tuned through our emails, google+, twitter, facebook, and pinterest for more chances to win great stuff!




Cheers,


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Substance of Living

Monday, November 4, 2013

5 Easy and Quick Thanksgiving Table Decorations

I love parties that are over the top with decorations and tablescapes but sometimes simple is more elegant.  Especially at Thanksgiving, it seems that we automatically want to concentrate more on those around the table than the decorations.  Besides that, if you have your table full of wonderful decorations, where do you put the food if not on a buffet?

There are many occasions that the center of the table, the runner, is the buffet table.  That's when individual touches come into play.



Tea Towel over Chair by Pear Tree Greetings
Tea Towel over Chair


Thanksgiving Table by digsdigs
Organic Table


Felt Leaf Tablerunner by The Seasoned Homemaker
Felt Leaf Table Runner


Natural Table by Sunset.com
Place Card with Herbs


Leaf Placecards by "i do" it yourself
Natural Leaf Place Cards

Simple ribbon tied around a napkin, folding a napkin, or by placing tea lights at each setting saves time and money allowing you more peace of mind.

Use what you have on hand.  Because even if your dishes or silverware aren't complete sets, they will add authenticity and personality to your table.





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Substance of Living

Friday, November 1, 2013

Books to Read During the Month of November 2013

This past summer we started a book club of sorts.  It certainly isn't a typical book club where we all get together and discuss books but more of a sharing of our favorite books, genres, and authors.


He Sees You When You're Sleeping by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
He Sees You When You're Sleeping by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark


One Glass is Never Enough by Jane Wenham-Jones
One Glass is Never Enough by Jane Wenham-Jones

Do you belong to a book club?  How often do you meet?  How does your club work, do you pick out the books for the year, do you meet at someone's home?

Whispers from the Heart: A Novel (Journals from the Heart) by Heather Hummel
Whispers from the Heart: A Novel (Journals from the Heart) by Heather Hummel


Joe Cafe by JD Mader
Joe Cafe by JD Mader


If you're new to our book club and would like to get caught up, check out June, July, August, September, and October.

We, at Substance of Living hope you're having fun and as always love hearing your thoughts and recommendations.  How would you like a more interactive book club where discussions are free-flowing?





P.S., Should you decide to purchase any of these books through the links, Substance of Living will receive a small percentage and will help keep this blog going.

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If you enjoyed this post, please do a friend and me a BIG favor and forward this email. If you received this email from a friend and you'd like to see more, please sign up today. Don't miss out on future articles. Have Substance of Living delivered directly to your inbox.  THANKS!

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