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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beverages

TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Nonalcoholic Beverages


Lavender lemonade, a truly great experience
(as is lavender iced tea). Here’s the recipe.
Photo © Edith Frimcu | Dreamstime.


Many home trends in foods and how to serve them come from restaurants, where chefs are constantly on the look for new ways to tempt customers.

While mixologists have long been creating menus of specialty cocktails, nonalcoholic customized beverages are moving to the foreground as well.

In addition to being a money-maker for margin-squeezed restaurants, customers can view these beverages as novel and better for them, tempting some to trade up from tap water.

Recently, the National Restaurant Association polled nearly 1,300 chefs about nonalcoholic happenings in their restaurants. The top five answers follow.

For us at home, it’s an opportunity to follow the trend and treat family and guests to something special.


Chefs point to gourmet lemonade as the hottest nonalcoholic beverage trend in restaurants. The “gourmet” aspect usually comes from adding another fruit or an herb (or both: rhubarb basil lemonade, anyone?), via a syrup or preferably, fresh fruit infused with the tea.

As fruits come into season, make blueberry, mango, raspberry, stone fruit (nectarine, peach, plum), strawberry and watermelon lemonade. Add herbs like basil, lavender and mint. Add heat with jalapeño slices.

For people who want something more potent, add a shot of eau de vie, gin, lemon liqueur (like Limoncello), saké, tequila or vodka (regular or lemon-infused).

To start you off, here’s a basic lemonade recipe that you can customize into your signature beverage, plus a recipe for lavender lemonade, made with organic dried lavender.


A minor upgrade can turn the ubiquitous liquid refreshment into something special. It was second on the list of trending beverages, both at fine restaurants and chains (Friendly’s offered mango iced tea nd raspberry iced tea as limited-time offers last summer).

It’s easy to use flavored syrups, but the best taste comes from infusing the fruit with the hot water and tea. You can also try cold infusion, adding the fruit to the cooled brew tea and letting it infuse overnight in the fridge.

Alternatively, you can buy You can buy fruit-flavored tea bags, loose tea or ice tea mixes (mango, passionfruit, peach, raspberry and more); but when peaches are in season, use the fresh fruit.

Our local Japanese restaurant makes a celestial lemongrass iced tea (and for what we’ve been spending on two or three glasses each visit, we’d better start brewing our own).

We added the syrup from canned lychees to iced tea (yum!) and when fresh lychees arrive in June and July, we’ll be making fresh lychee iced tea.



One tactic restaurants use to get guests to trade up from water is to offer a soft drink that they can’t get anywhere else. For several years, we’ve been tempted by house-made sodas, both to see what “real” cola and root beer tasted like before their flavors were fixed on our palates by commercial brands; and to experience the new (to us) and different (celery and basil, for example).

The easy way to start at home is to get a Sodastream, practice with their syrups and then create your own.

Get a recipe book like Homemade Soda, with 200 recipes for making fruit sodas, fizzy juices, flavored sparkling waters, root beer, cola and more.


Consumers are increasingly interested in foods that are healthy and sustainable: two words that describe organic products. Organic coffee is a hot trend.

Instead of a simple cup of coffee at the end of the meal, some chefs at better restaurants are offering coffee brewed from better beans: organic beans or single-origin beans.



Fresh peach iced tea is a treat, but for a kick, add some jalapeño slices (remove the seeds and white pith). Photo courtesy Canard Inc. | NYC.

Instead of asking your guests, “Who wants coffee?” you can say, “Who’d like a cup of Blue Moon organic, Rain Forest Alliance coffee from Bali?”

Tiny Footprint is a brand that hits the trifecta: Certified Organic, Fair-Trade and part of the Rainforest Alliance, which is carbon negative and replants forests. It’s also delicious coffee (here’s our review). You can buy it online.

Americans are now buying some $400 million in coconut water annually.

Coconut water is the clear juice of young coconuts, as opposed to opaque white coconut milk, used for Piña Coladas (among other purposes). Here’s more about coconut water.

The trendy liquid is sought for its high content of potassium and other nutrients, as well as its relatively low calorie content. It’s drunk straight or added to smoothies.

While coconut water is sold in flavors (peach mango, pineapple, etc.), you can flavor your own. Lemon Cayenne, anyone?

Now that warmer weather is here, it’s time to begin your journey to creating signature nonalcholic beverages. Have fun!

*Coconut water is simply drained from young coconuts. Coconut milk is made by steeping the grated flesh of mature coconuts in water, then puréeing and straining.



PRODUCT: Joe’s Half & Half, Tea & Lemonade Drink


The new Half & Half champion. Photo courtesy Red Jacket Orchards.


Arnold Palmer, make way for Joe Nicholson: There’s a new tea and lemonade blend in town.

In a Palm Springs country club in the the 1960s, with his order of a glass of half lemonade—a drink he mixed at home—golf legend Arnold Palmer established the soft drink that bears his name. Others who overheard him said “I’ll have what he’s having,” and Arnold Palmer, the drink, has been popular ever since.

Manufacturers and restaurants have created their spin on the drink, also called a Half & Half. But no one has done it better than Red Jacket Orchards, which debuted Joe’s Half & Half this month.

Named for company founder Joe Nicholson, the drink fuses the company’s NY Style Lemonade with guayusa tea, a NIBBLE favorite.

  • The lemonade is a mix of lemons with the company’s cold-pressed apples, giving Joe’s Half & Half a delectable hint of apple juice as well.
  • Guayusa tea comes is made from an indigenous leaf that is hand-picked by the Kichwa community in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. It is delicious and even better for you than conventional tea; it’s known for natural caffeine that doesn’t give you jitters.
    Every bottle of Joes’s Half & Half contains more than twice the antioxidant levels found in green tea, and has no added sweeteners—just the national sweetness of the apples. The final product is delicious juice that gives you healthy energy.

    Available in 12-ounce (individual) and 32-ounce bottles, Joe’s Half & Half is a new favorite of ours, for sure. Thanks, Joe!

    Discover more at You can also send someone a gift of the Cold Pressed Juice Of The Month Club.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherimoya


    When our colleague Hannah Kaminsky mentioned that cherimoya was her favorite fruit, we were curious. Depending on where you live, you may not come across this heart-shaped subtropical fruit often.

    We had to head to a Latin American supermarket uptown. But seek it out we did, and the trip was worth it. The fruit’s blend of banana, mango, passionfruit and pineapple notes is luscious. The ivory-colored flesh is creamy, similar to a ripe peach.

    Also called a custard apple in the U.S., cherimoya is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountains. The name originates from the Quechua (Inca) word chirimuya, meaning “cold seeds” (because the seeds germinate at high altitudes). It grows as a shrub or tree.



    A cherimoya. Now you know! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.



    The pale green, shingled skin must be handled with care to avoid bruising. Choose unblemished fruit that is firm and allow it to ripen at room temperature.

    As it ripens, the skin will turn a darker green and will yield to gentle pressure. Refrigerate soft fruit and consume it as soon as possible for the best flavor.

    To serve, chill the cherimoya, cut it in half, spoon out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon. It can also be turned into desserts, such as crêpes, custard (hence the name “custard apple)”, dessert sauce (purée), fruit salad (as with apples, dip cut fruit in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening), mousse, pie filling, pudding and sorbet.

    You can freeze the cherimoya and eat it as ice cream, from the shell. Definitely try this!

    And you can drink it. Whip up a shake, smoothie, cherimoya Daiquiri or other fruity cocktail.

    To usher in spring, which began today, make Hannah Kaminsky’s tropical cocktail or smoothie, Cherimoya Lava Flow.



    Celebrate spring with this Cherimoya Lava Flow. Photo and recipe courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.



    From Hawaii, where her local farmers market has plenty of cherimoyas, Hannah writes: “It’s a pricy treat to be sure,” even though grown locally. Her favorite way to enjoy the ripe, custard-like flesh is to dig in with a spoon.

    “With an overripe fruit, though,” she advises, “the only thing one one can do is blend and drink it. That’s where the idea to create a tropical shake came from, playing off the classic umbrella drink, the lava flow.

    “Fiery red rivulets of strawberry ‘lava’ flow throughout a classic coconut-pineapple rendition of this refreshing island staple, finished with a kiss of light rum. The sweet, creamy richness of cherimoya transforms the drink into an exotic new experience, which is just as luscious with or without the booze.

    “In lieu of fresh cherimoya, you can substitute either 1 medium banana or 2/3 cup young coconut meat for a different, yet still delicious, taste.”

    Of course, you can leave out the rum for a tropical smoothie. Substitute an equal amount of pineapple juice.



    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Strawberry Lava Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    For The Creamy Cherimoya Cocktail

  • 1 medium cherimoya
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup light rum
  • Optional garnish: fresh pineapple wedges

    1. PREPARE the strawberry sauce first by combining the strawberries, sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, just until the berries have softened and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly purée so that no chunks of fruit remain. Strain out the seeds if desired and set aside.

    2. RINSE and dry the blender bowl and return it to the base. Slice the cherimoya in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the black seeds as you encounter them. Add the cherimoya to the blender, along with the pineapple, coconut milk and 1/4 cup of rum. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add more rum to taste.

    3. DIVIDE the cocktail between two glasses and drizzle the strawberry “lava” into each one, aiming for the sides of the glass to create the greatest visual impact. Serve with a tall straw and an additional wedge of fresh pineapple for garnish.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Chocolate From Scratch


    Delicious Moonstruck chocolate bars melted
    into milk for hot chocolate. Photo courtesy


    It’s below zero in quite a few areas of the country today. As we write this, in Fargo it’s 2°F, with the wind chill making it feel like -18°. In our own municipality, New York City, it’s 14°F, with a wind chill taking us to -3°, going down to -20° tomorrow morning. In the Hudson Valley north of us, the wind chill is -25° to -35° degrees. At JFK Airport, it’s -40°F.

    Yes, it’s colder here than in Fargo!

    So some warming comfort food is required. We recommend hot chocolate made from scratch.

    No matter how much you enjoy hot chocolate from packets—even the pricier ones—making it from scratch produces a far superior product. It’s richer and more chocolaty, with a sweetness level you can adapt and your choice of milk (lactose free, nondairy, whatever).


    Unwrap a bar of your favorite good-quality chocolate (or leftover solid Valentine chocolate) in a mug of steamed milk. Like hot chocolate on a stick, you stir until the chocolate melts.

    If you don’t have a steamer, just heat the mil

    k in the microwave. A mug with 6 ounces of steamed or heated milk can accommodate a small chocolate bar of around 1.2 to 1.4 ounces. A thin bar will melt very rapidly; a chunk of a thicker bar will melt much more slowly.

    Mora Iced Creamery, on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle, serves something like this called a Submarino” in a glass mug. The chocolate “submarine” melts and turn the “oceand” from white to chocolate brown.

    In Columbus, Ohio, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams serves a variation called Hot Chocolate Soup: hot chocolate in a café au lait bowl, served with animal crackers and a handmade marshmallow.

    Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate in Utah favors a Chocolate & Cream, a preparation of 2 ounces of his delicious chocolate bars melted into a mug’s worth of whole milk combined with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.

    The City Bakery in New York City adds two tablespoons of butter instead of the heavy cream. (Try it if you like things really rich.)

    When you use actual chocolate, including ground chocolate (often labeled as drinking chocolate) instead of cocoa powder, you are making hot chocolate. Here’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate.



    Ingredients Per Large Cup/Mug

  • 2-3 ounces of your favorite semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or as chips
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk*
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream* of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, marshmallow or
    marshmallow creme
    *You can substitute lowfat or nonfat milk. The drink will simply be less rich. Similarly, you can substitute light cream or half and half for the heavy cream.



    Hot chocolate can be customized in dozens of flavors, from banana to raspberry. Photo courtesy McCormick.

    1. COMBINE the chocolate, cocoa and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cover and process in ten second bursts at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    2. HEAT 3/4 cup whole milk plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or 3/4 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons of water) in a small, nonreactive saucepan. If using the cream mixture, stir frequently, preferably with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot. If using water, the mixture should be almost at a boil.

    3. ADD the processed chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until it is dissolved and the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve immediately. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings
    Here are 30 different ways to alter the recipe.

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Banana Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Chai Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Ice Cream Float Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Spiced Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Tequila Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • White Hot Chocolate Recipe


    PRODUCT: Belvoir Non-Alcoholic Cordials


    Individual-size bottles of Belvoir Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower & Rose Lemonade. Photo courtesy Belvoir Fruit Farms.


    Instead of a Valentine mocktail, head straight to the delicious nonalcoholic cordials from Belvoir.

    While Americans use the word as a synonym for fruit liqueur, in the U.K. a cordial is a carbonated, fruit-flavored soft drink.

    Belvoir Fruit Farms is nestled in the English countryside in the idyllic Vale of Belvoir, in Leicestershire, in the English Midlands. The name is French for beautiful view.

    Belvoir Castle, a tourist attraction, is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. But the name may be more familiar to Americans from the non-alcoholic fruit cordials the family sells, a business developed by the current duke’s father to generate income for the continued upkeep of the castle.

    The duke’s mother infused elderflowers, grown on the estate, into a delicious beverage. Her husband saw a revenue potential, and the family business has been pressing and cooking fresh flowers, fruits and spices since 1981, combining them with local spring water. The line expanded, and is currently exported worldwide.

    Delicious and all natural, they are a refreshing alternative to other soft drinks. While they are a wonderful mixer for cocktails (and in sweet and savory recipes), they are absolutely delicious simply chilled.

    The line of cordials includes Apple, Plum & Cinnnamon; Blueberry & Blackcurrant; Blackcurrant & Cox Apple; Elderflower, Ginger; Honey, Lemon & Ginger; Lemon; Lime; Raspberry & Lemon; Raspberry & Rose; Rhubarb & Strawberry; Spiced Apple & Ginger and Spiced Winterberries. As if this isn’t enough to fit on the grocer’s shelf, other flavors pop up,like Elderflower & Rose Lemonade.

    The Elderflower, Raspberry & Rose and Rhubarb & Strawberry are especially nice for Valentine’s Day. The latter two are in beautiful rosy hues.

    Large bottles (750ml) and individual size (25cl/8.45 fl.oz.) are available at specialty food stores and better supermarkets. Most are sold on Amazon.

    For more information visit



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bai 5 Low Calorie, High Antioxidant Drink

    Bai 5 is a new addition to the “healthy drink alternatives” category, and certainly worth checking out if you’re looking for a better beverage choice. It has just five calories and one gram of sugar per serving*, and it’s packed with antioxidants.

    It’s also packed with lots of natural flavor. Unlike so many low-calorie drinks, there’s not a hint of artificial flavor.

    What there is, surprisingly, is coffee fruit, the red berries that are the fruit of the coffee tree. Coffee beans are actually the seeds of this fruit.

    The coffee fruit on its has no taste of coffee (In fact, the green seeds of the berry don’t taste like coffee until they’re roasted. Like the beans, the fruit contains caffeine. A serving of Bai 5 has 35mg of caffeine, roughly the same as a cup of green tea.

    Coffee berries are rich in antioxidants, with more than touted antioxidant fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and raspberries.

    The line is all-natural, low-glycemic, OU kosher, GMO-free, and gluten-free—not that you’d expect to find gluten, a cereal protein, in a conventional beverage; but it seems that everything these days is touted as gluten free, including olive oil, pasta sauce and other foods that have never been near gluten†.



    The Bai 5 line is low in calories and high in
    natural flavor. Photo courtesy Bai.




    One of the 10 flavors of Bai 5. Photo courtesy Bai.


    Flavors include Brasilia Blueberry, Congo Pear, Costa Rica Clementine, Ipanema Pomegranate, Limu Lemon, Malawi Mango, Molokai Coconut, Panama Peach, Sumatra Dragonfruit and Tanzania Lemonade Tea.

    There are also carbonated versions we have yet to taste, in Bolivia Black Cherry, Gimbi Pink Grapefruit, Guatemala Guava, Indonesia Nashi Pear, Jamaica Blood Orange, Peru Pineapple and Waikiki Coconut.

    You can turn Bai 5 into a spritzer with an equal amount of club soda, with some optional gin, tequila or vodka. But we’ll keep enjoying the refreshing fruit taste, straight and chilled.

    Discover more at

    *Note that the 18-ounce bottle contains two servings.

    †Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, wheat and other grains: bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt and triticale, for example. Botanically, cereal refers to the entire stalk of grass—think of corn stalks or rice stalks. The grain is the edible part of the grass, e.g. the kernel.





    Back in 2006, we reviewed a wonderful product called Sundia Watermelon Juice. It was celestial, tasting like fresh-squeezed watermelon.

    Alas, the company discontinued the product, and it took until 2014 for another commercial brand to come our way.

    World Waters debuted its WTRMLN WTR (someone’s idea—not ours—of a clever way to spell “Watermelon Water”). The product was named “Best Juice” at the recent BevNET Best of 2014 Awards.

    WTRMLN WTR is an all natural cold-pressed watermelon water that is more than refreshing: It’s packed with electrolytes (the same amount as coconut water and six times the electrolytes of sports drinks) and L-citrulline, a powerful amino acid that aids in workout performance and muscle recovery. Vitamin C and lycopene contribute antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits.

    There’s no added sugar. The product is certified kosher by OU.

    WTRMLN WTR is a pleasant departure from the never-ending stream of coconut waters we are pitched.

    The line debuted New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Los Angeles, expanding to San Francisco and other areas this year.



    Drink your watermelon. Photo courtesy World Waters.

    A 12-ounce bottle is $4.99 at Whole Foods Markets and other fine retailers. You can buy it online at, 12 bottles for $72.

    So is it as heavenly as Sundia’s version? Not to us: It tastes more “green,” which may or may not be due to the varying sweetness levels of watermelon, or the fact that watermelon rind is pressed along with the flesh.

    But it’s still grab-and-go watermelon juice. If your only other option is to juice your own, WTRMLN WTR is a great choice.

    Discover more at



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Make Cream From Milk


    No cream? No problem! Make it from milk
    and butter. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.


    Here’s a fun kitchen trick. Say you need some heavy cream for a recipe (or even a cup of coffee), but have none.

    If you have whole milk and unsalted butter, you can combine them to make cream. The difference between milk and cream is the amount of butterfat. The butter, which is at least butterfat, supplies what the milk lacks.

    This recipe makes heavy cream, approximately 36% butterfat.


    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

    1. MELT the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop.

    2. PLACE in a mixing bowl with the milk.

    3. BLEND with electric beaters or an immersion blender.

    It’s that simple!



    Butterfat, also called milkfat, is the fatty portion of milk. The components of milk include:

  • Carbohydrate, 4.9% (this is lactose, or milk sugar)
  • Fat, 3.4% (approximately 65% saturated fat, 29% monounsaturated fat and 6% polyunsaturated fat)
  • Protein, 3.3% (82% casein and 18% whey)
  • Water, 87%
  • Vitamins (cobalamin [vitamin B12], folate, niacin [vitamin B3], pantothenic acid [vitamin B5], pyridoxine [vitamin B6], thiamin [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2, vitamins C, D, E and K)
  • Minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc)
  • Minor biological proteins and enzymes (lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, lipases, lactase) [Source]

    Dairy Products; milk,cheese,ricotta, yogurt and butter

    It’s easy to make cream from milk and butter. Photo © Siberkorn | DRM .

    The USDA imposes federal standards for the minimum butterfat content of commercial dairy products. Here are the standards:


  • Butter, including whipped butter, must contain at least 80% butterfat.

  • Half and half contains 10.5%–18% butterfat.
  • Light cream and sour cream contain 18%–30% butterfat.
  • Light whipping cream (often called simply “whipping cream”) contains 30%–36% butterfat.
  • Heavy cream contains a minimum of 36% butterfat.

  • Skim milk contains less than 0.5% butterfat, typically 0.1%.
  • Lowfat milk (1% and 2% varieties) contain between .5% and 2% butterfat.
  • Whole milk contains at least 3.25% butterfat.

  • Dry curd and nonfat cottage cheese contain less than 0.5% butterfat.
  • Lowfat cottage cheese contains .5%–2% butterfat.
  • Cottage cheese contains at least 4% butterfat.
  • Swiss cheese contains at least 43% butterfat relative to the total solids.
  • Cheddar cheese contains at least 50% butterfat relative to the total solids.

  • Sherbet contains 1%–2% butterfat.
  • Lowfat ice cream, also called ice milk, contains no more than 2.6% butterfat.
  • Ice cream contains at least 10% butterfat.
  • Frozen custard contains at least 10% butterfat, but it also must contain at least 1.4% egg yolk solids.


    PRODUCT: Boxed Water Is Better


    Boxed Water offers grab-and-go convenience with a smaller carbon footprint. Photo courtesy Boxed Water.


    If your 2015 goals include drinking more water, our first tip would be to purchase a refillable water bottle. You’ll save money and save the environment in the process. Millions of plastic bottles go into U.S. landfills each year.

    Second choice: Boxed Water, an alternative to bottled water that decreases dependence on non-renewable resources, reduces waste and decreases the carbon footprint. The company fills milk carton-type boxes instead of plastic or glass bottles.

    The Boxed Water container is far more sustainable than plastic bottled water. About 76% of the box is from a renewable resource, trees. The trees used to make the boxes come from certified, well managed forests. These forests remain healthy and stable through ongoing replanting while helping to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    The cardboard boxes are easily recyclable, and are shipped flat to the filling plant, which is significantly more fuel-efficient compared to shipping empty plastic or glass bottles.


    The company uses local water sources—no shipping of water cross-country or across the seas, with a big carbon footprint. The water is purified via reverse osmosis and carbon filtering.

    The rectangular shape reduces shipping waste and carbon footprint versus round bottles.

    Finally, the company has partnered with 1% For The Planet to help with world water relief, reforestation, and environmental protection projects to help enable a positive impact on humanitarian and environmental efforts. That’s water for thought in 2015!

    Boxed Water is currently available in more than 6,000 stores in the U.S. with growing distribution in Canada and Mexico. For more information visit



    TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Cane Cocoa Rim


    Warm up your day with peppermint-accented
    cocoa. Photo courtesy Ziploc.


    For those living north of the Equator, today* is the the winter solstice, shortest day of the year.

    Since antiquity, man has celebrated the winter solstice with feasting, gifts, visiting, drinking and more of the pleasures that counter the daily hardships of life.

    So treat yourself to something special. We recommend a candy cane hot chocolate.

    Start by making a seasonal cocoa cup rimmer with crushed candy canes or other peppermint candies.

    Here’s a recipe for an easy batch of “peppermint dust” from Ziploc. Use it to turn goodies into festive treats all winter long.

    To rim a cup of cocoa, dip the rim in water about 1/4 inch deep. Place the peppermint dust on a plate or in shallow bowl and twist the wet rim in it until it adheres.


    1. PLACE candy canes or other red and white peppermint candies in a Ziploc bag. Gently crush the candies with a rolling pin. Use less pressure for tiny chunks, and more pressure for a fine dust.

    2. STORE the peppermint dust in a a Ziploc bag or other airtight container for easy access.

    3. SPRINKLE on frosted, brownies, donuts, cupcakes. See these and other recipes at



    Hot chocolate is made by mixing shaved, ground or other form of actual chocolate like beads or pellets (pistoles). The chocolate is mixed with water or milk, plus a sweetener. If you were to eat the chocolate, it would taste just like chocolate from a chocolate bar.

    Cocoa is made with cocoa powder. Many products made from cocoa powder are called “hot chocolate,” but there is a difference. As chocolate contains far more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, hot chocolate will be smoother and richer than hot cocoa, all things being equal (if both products are made with the same type of liquid—milk, half and half, water, etc.) .

    Check out the different types of cocoa and hot chocolate.

    For an over-the-top treat, have some peppermint bark with your candy cane cocoa.

    Peppermint bark is super easy to make. Simply:



    It’s easy to make peppermint dust. Photo courtesy Ziploc.

    1. MELT white chocolate chips or a white chocolate bar in a microwave safe bowl. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with peppermint dust.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator for an hour and break into chunks. Voilà: a special treat with little effort.
    *Using the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs between December 20th and December 23rd. Based on the rotation of Earth, the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun at the winter solstice (and closest to the sun at the vernal equinox in June). The Gregorian calendar is used in most western countries: 365 days in a year, 366 days in a leap year.



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