30 December 2008

kitchen katastrophe: vin chaud and puppy chow

each year, my extended family gets together to celebrate christmas. in a new twist this year, everyone was asked to bring something to eat or drink - a christmas potluck, if you will. my aunt (hosting the event) agreed to take care of the turkey and main dishes with the family (28 of us in total) bringing appetizers, desserts, deliciously drinkable alcoholic drinks, etc. my original goal was to make the ULTIMATE christmas dessert: the buche de noel. this might just be the most complicated thing i have ever heard of. i chickened out at the last minute. instead, i opted to get my family drunk with vin chaud (hot wine, direct french translation) or as we know it in the US, mulled wine, and feed them with puppy chow.

i was at the grocery store when i made my decision and having only ever made vin chaud one other time, did not know a recipe off the top of my head. so, i called my dear friend, JaBootaay, who happily looked up a random vin chaud recipe online and read me the ingredients. this was chosen for a number of reasons: 1) easily found online and 2) not a ton of ingredients. so, here is the very basic mulled wine recipe:

Mulled Wine (Vin Chaud)
  • 2 (750 ml) bottles merlot
  • 3 cups orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 36 whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 3/4 cup water
  1. In a large stainless steel stockpot, combine all ingredients.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat to very low and keep warm for about 30 minutes to let the flavours blend.
  4. Strain out the cloves and the cinnamon before serving.
  5. Ladle in to heatproof cups.
sounds easy, right? in fact, it wasn't too bad. a few things, though: i only had one bottle of merlot on hand, so i combined it with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. i have always heard that if you have a bottle of red wine you don't like, make mulled wine to mask the taste. i think this is still true. in addition, it's kind of hard to find nice, squeezable oranges at this time of year in north dakota, so i used 100% pure orange juice and lemon juice from a bottle.
JaBootaay suggested i use north dakota snow as water, but it took too long to melt, so i just used tap water (drinkable here, no one uses brita). the only other issue i had with this was the transporting of it. we filled two thermoses (thermi?) and brought the rest in a slow cooker. it went fast, so it almost wasn't worth it. if you're making this for a party of 8+ people, you could easily double the recipe.
apologies, i forgot my camera at home, so i don't have a final picture in a glass. but pretty much it looked like above. but in a glass. mmmmm...

in addition, one of my brothers made puppy chow - this is a great meal that almost everyone likes.

Puppy Chow
  • 9 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
  2. In a pot, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter until smooth.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.
  5. Pour into paper bag.
  6. Add powdered sugar. Close bag; shake until well coated.
you may notice that the above recipe is slightly altered from that on the chex website. this is because my mom cut out the chex mix recipe from about 15-20 years ago to put into her recipe box and that is the actual recipe we use - no microwaving here (although i am sure it would work), but i wanted to give the good folks at chex their claim to the recipe.

so you can measure your success, here is our melting on the oven:
then we poured the completely smooth (not burnt - be sure not to melt at too high a temperature, this will entail lots of stirring and monitoring) over the cereal in a turkey roaster, quite appropriate.
this allowed us to shake the mix, rather than stir it. i feel this gives it a better coating.
finally, we pour the chocolatey cereal into a brown paper bag with powdered sugar as below.
then shake it like a polaroid picture. you can put into the fridge or walk-in cooler to harden and then enjoy. again, no final pictures, although you can click on the puppy chow wiki link above to see a nice picture. the powdered sugar is important. i once lugged a huge box of chex all the way to europe to make this for my friends. catch was, they don't have powdered sugar in france (that we could find), so we used regular sugar to coat. no go. it was horrible and everyone thought i was crazy for even liking the idea of this meal. anyway, made properly, this is enjoyed by everyone! AND this, combined with the wine, is a fully-balanced meal: carbs, dairy, fruits, alcohol, and chocolate!

since it's the holidays, i believe the kitchen gods have smiled down on me in making a fabulous few meals for my family: no huge katastrophe here. however, there are still a few things one can learn:

  1. bring a camera to all family events.
  2. no matter what, you will always underestimate the alcoholic needs of family members when forced to spend 6 hours together.
  3. this type of puppy chow is NOT for dogs unless you want to clean up you-know-what...


  1. I believe I am responsible for eating about 80% of the puppy chow. And now I would like some more.

  2. this looks awesome.

    ps i have fond memories of making buche de noel every year in highschool for french class.......

  3. You know what. Puppy chow is lame. Especially when compared to what I made. And NOTHING about it. BaHUMBUG.

  4. hahaha jk, sister, you know i love you! and eric's puppy chow, too! ;)



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