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Archive for Beverages

RECIPE: Hot Chocolate Peppermint Bark Ice Cream Float

Before those limited edition candy cane and peppermint ice creams disappear, have your last hurrah

Pastry chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City created this treat with Häagen-Dazs Peppermint Bark Ice Cream Float

“I do not mess around with my hot chocolate,” says Chef Tosi. “As a pastry chef, it’s practically required to have a killer hot chocolate recipe at the ready when the cold months come knocking….Häagen-Dazs Peppermint Bark Ice Cream just screamed out ‘dunk me in hot chocolate!’”

The flavor, white chocolate ice cream blended with crunchy, chocolaty peppermint bark and peppermint candy pieces, is available through the end of the month.


Ingredients For 4-6 Servings


A hot and cold holiday treat. Photo courtesy Häagen-Dazs.

  • ½ cup cocoa powder (Dutch-processed with alkali)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 carton (14 ounces) peppermint bark ice cream
  • Optional: peppermint schnapps
  • Optional garnish: candy canes/peppermint sticks

    Peppermint Bark Häagen-Dazs is here until
    the end of December. Photo courtesy



    1. COMBINE cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

    2. BRING milk to a near scalding boil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Pour milk immediately over the bowl of cocoa, sugar, chocolate and salt. Allow it to sit for 1 minute.

    3. WHISK slowly to combine. Continue whisking until mixture is evenly combined and silky smooth. You can always pass it through a fine mesh strainer if you’re concerned about lumps.

    4. POUR hot chocolate evenly into mugs and add optional schnapps; stir to mix. Scoop ice cream on top. Garnish with optional candy cane/peppermint stick.



  • For a crowd, make the hot chocolate in advance in a large batch, so all you have to do is heat and serve.
  • Invest in quality cocoa powder and chocolate: It will make a world of difference in the taste and texture of your hot chocolate.
  • You can use 0% or 2% milk in place of the whole milk.


    GIFT: Gourmet Cocoa And Hot Chocolate

    Winter Hot Chocolate is a classic cocoa mix
    with a touch of vanilla. Photo courtesy Lake
    Champlain Chocolates.


    “Forget Christmas gifts this year,” said our friend Gerard, when he called to invite us to his annual party and gifting frenzy. “At this point in our lives, none of us needs another scarf, another basket of Kiehl’s products, another tzotchke, another random book.”

    “Can we bring some gourmet cocoa?” we suggested. “Sure,” he responded.

    That’s why we love food gifts. They can readily be consumed by the recipient, his guests or his family members.

    And you don’t have to go far to find something good. Any upscale supermarket has gourmet chocolate bars, fine olive oil and gourmet hot chocolate.

    We passed by all of them at Whole Foods yesterday, including these gifty hot chocolate canisters from Lake Champlain Chocolates (also available directly from Lake Champlain Chocolates). They’re just $10.50 for a festively-designed one-pound canister (one pound makes approximately 21 eight-ounce servings). You can package the gifts with some handmade marshmallows in the confections section.

    Lake Champlain’s hot chocolate is certified kosher by Star-D, and is Fair Trade Certified, which means that it’s a feel-good product, right for the holiday season.

    Fair trade certification allows farmers to receive higher prices than they would in the conventional market. It means that the farmers are paid a fair price for their product and are not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth.

    Read more about Fair Trade.



    From adding flavors—banana, cinnamon, chai, hot spices, mint—to liqueurs, we’ve got 25 ways to make an already delicious cup of cocoa even more memorable.

    Check ‘em out.

    December 12th is National Cocoa Day. What’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate?

    Most people use the terms interchangeably, but they’re actually different.

    Cocoa is a drink made from cocoa powder.

    Hot chocolate is a drink made from actual chocolate, usually ground or shaved into small bits. Chocolate has more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, so it makes a richer drink, all things being equal (the same type of milk, e.g.).


    Enjoy Peppermint Hot Chocolate for the holidays, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolates.


    To make any cup of cocoa or hot chocolate richer, you can:

  • Use half and half, or half milk and half cream.
  • Stir in a pat of unsweetened butter—really! It’s a chef’s secret trick.
    Visit our Cocoa Section for brand reviews, recipes and more about man’s favorite chocolate drink.

    Or take our Cocoa Trivia Quiz.



    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

    Salted caramel hot chocolate. Photo courtesy Starbucks.


    What’s trending in hot chocolate? Salted chocolate caramel hot chocolate or cocoa (here’s the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa).

    We’ve seen prepared drinks and/or mixes from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Williams-Sonoma. But you can try your hand making it from scratch at home:


    Ingredients For 2 Servings (Mugs)

  • 16 ounces milk (for an extra-rich version, use half and half)
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces chocolate caramels, chopped-or-caramel syrup*
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Optional garnish: caramel and/or chocolate syrup†
    *The caramels create a thicker, richer drink than the caramel syrup.
    †The syrup has visual appeal, but the drink is plenty sweet without it.

    1. HEAT half the milk and all the chopped chocolate in a small pot over medium heat until the chocolate is melted, whisking regularly. Whisk in the remaining milk and the chopped caramels, and continue whisking until the all the chocolate and caramel are dissolved.

    ALTERNATIVE: Instead of using chopped caramels, add 2 tablespoons of caramel syrup to each mug. Add the hot chocolate and stir.

    2. GARNISH with with whipped cream, drizzle optional caramel syrup and top with a pinch of sea salt.

    3. TWEAK the recipe until you have your ideal. We prefer a less sweet drink, so we use chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or higher (the higher the percentage of cacao, the less sugar in the chocolate). We also like the salt stirred into the hot chocolate, instead of on top of the whipped cream. We had some fine chocolate salt caramels on hand and used them instead of supermarket-variety chocolate caramels. They are ideal for this recipe, but a pricey way to enjoy the caramels! The intrepid among us can make chocolate salt caramels from scratch with this recipe.

    Let us know what your “perfect recipe” is.



    TIP OF THE DAY & GIFT: Hot Chocolate On A Stick ~ Party Favor & Place Setting

    Christmas hot chocolate on a stick. Swirl
    it in milk or water. Photo courtesy The Ticket


    The Hot Chocolate On A Stick from The Ticket Kitchen was a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week earlier this year. Made from the finest French couverture chocolate, it creates a delicious and interactive cup of hot chocolate in milk or water.

    The Ticket Kitchen in San Francisco molds blocks of chocolate onto stirring sticks and serves them up in different flavors, currently:

  • Belgian Milk Chocolate
  • Bolivian Single Origin (66% semisweet)
  • French Truffle (dark chocolate)
  • Peanut Butter (dark chocolate with a peanut butter cup)
  • Peppermint (milk chocolate with a peppermint stick)
  • Salted Caramel (caramelly milk chocolate topped with sea salt)
  • Spiced Ginger (spiced dark chocolate with a piece of crystallized ginger)
  • 3 Chili (dark chocolate topped with a blend of ancho, cayenne and chipotle)
  • Vanilla Mint (milk chocolate with an Andes Mint)
  • Venezuela Single Origin (68% semisweet)

    They all make great gifts, but two of the flavors are perfect for holiday entertaining:

    Spiced Ginger Hot Chocolate on a Stick (60% Cacao). Rich dark chocolate is blended with ginger, cinnamon and seasonal spices to make a magnificient mulled mug of winter hot chocolate. You can nibble on the crystallized ginger garnish or blend it into the beverage. More information.

    Peppermint Hot Chocolate On A Stick. Finest Belgian milk chocolate is garnished with an old fashioned peppermint stick come together to make a perfect mug of peppermint hot chocolate. More information.

    Gift boxes are available in sets of 1, 2, 4, 5 or 12 sticks, with or without accoutrements such as mugs and handmade marshmallows.

    To see the full line, visit


    Add a name tag to use as a place setting and party favor. Look hard and you’ll see the piece of crystallized ginger on the Spiced Ginger flavor. The chocolate itself has gingerbread spices. Photo courtesy Ticket Kitchen.




    FOOD HOLIDAY: Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day

    Do you know what this is? Chances are,
    you’ve consumed it (and some people
    consume it a lot!). Photo by Bob Walker |


    Today is National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day. Yes, some of these official food holidays are quirky. But each one offers a teaching moment.

    There are only six plants on earth that contain caffeine. Quick: close your eyes and try to name them.

    They are:

  • Cacao: the cacao bean (the seeds of a tree fruit) is used to make chocolate and cocoa.
  • Coffee: the leaves, cherries and seeds all contain caffeine; the seeds are roasted to become coffee beans.
  • Kola: the nut of the tree is used to make cola drinks (that’s it in the photo).
  • Guaraná: the seed is extracted as a beverage ingredient; it’s present in just about every energy drink.
  • Tea: the leaf of the plant is an herb that has become a culinary mainstay throughout the world.

  • Yerba maté: the leaf of a tree that’s a member of the holly family, it is brewed like tea and drunk in parts of South America the way some Americans drink coffee: continuously, for vitality and mental clarity (more about yerba maté).
    What do all of these foods with caffeine have in common?

  • They’re all leaves, nuts or seeds of trees.
  • They’re all used to make beverages.
    As you sip your caffeinated beverage, think of how much you’ve learned!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Seltzer

    Lime seltzer garnished with whole
    cranberries. Photo courtesy Polar Seltzer.


    As you’re lining up your ducks for Thanksgiving (or should that be, lining up your turkeys?), here’s a beverage that can be a cocktail, mocktail or simply a replacement for water at the table.

    We were inspired by these ideas from Polar Seltzer, a Massachusetts seltzer specialist that makes dozens of zero-calorie flavored seltzers, including seasonal specialties.

    Cranberry Lime is a year-round Polar Seltzer flavor that’s a perfect fit with Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you can’t find a cranberry or cranberry-lime flavor in your local store, default to lime seltzer/club soda (the difference between seltzer and club soda is below).


    Garnish the seltzer with some whole cranberries: simple and elegant.

    For Christmas, add a mint leaf or lime wheel for a red-and-green effect.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3-4 fresh mint Leaves
  • 1-1/2 ounces vodka
  • Ice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry or lime seltzer/club soda
  • Fresh cranberries, as garnish
  • For Christmas: add a mint leaf or lime wheel for a red-and-green effect

    1. MUDDLE cranberry juice, mint and vodka in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice.

    2. STRAIN into a glass, top with seltzer and garnish with fresh mint.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Pomegranate syrup or grenadine
  • Ice cubes
  • Cranberry or lime seltzer/club soda
  • Optional: 1-1/2 ounces vodka
  • Fresh cranberries, as garnish
  • For Christmas: add a mint leaf or lime wheel for a red-and-green effect

    1. ADD a tablespoon or more of syrup to a rocks glass or Collins glass. Add ice cubes.

    2. TOP with seltzer. Garnish as desired.


    Cocktail or mocktail with pomegranate syrup or grenadine. Photo courtesy Polar Seltzer.



    The overall category is carbonated water, also called soda water: water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, causing the water to become effervescent.

    Carbonated Water: In the U.S., carbonated water was known as soda water until after World War II, due to the sodium salts it contained. While today we think of “soda” as a carbonated beverage, the word originally refers to a chemical salts, also called carbonate of soda (sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, sodium monoxide).

    The salts were added as flavoring and acidity regulator, to mimic the taste of a natural mineral water. After the war, terms such as sparkling water and seltzer water gained favor. Except for sparkling mineral water, all carbonated water/soda water is made from municipal water supplies (tap water).

    Carbonated water was invented in Leeds, England in 1767 by British chemist Joseph Priestley, who discovered how to infuse water with carbon dioxide by suspending a bowl of water above a beer vat at a local brewery. Carbonated water changed the way people drank liquor, which had been neat, providing a “mixer” to dilute the alcohol.

    Club Soda: Like the original carbonated water, club soda is enhanced with some sodium salts.

    Fizzy Water: Another term for carbonated water.

    Seltzer or Seltzer Water: Seltzer is carbonated water with no sodium salts added. The term derives from the town of Selters in central Germany, which is renowned for its mineral springs. The naturally carbonated water—which contains naturally dissolved salts—has been commercially bottled and shipped around the world since at least the 18th century.

    Sparkling Water: Another term for carbonated water/soda water. It can also refer to sparkling mineral water, which is pumped from underground aquifers. Note that not all sparkling mineral waters are naturally effervescent. Many are actually carbonated from still mineral water. Some are lightly carbonated by nature, but have extra carbonation added at bottling to meet consumer preferences.

    Two Cents Plain: Another word for soda water, coined during the Great Depression, when plain soda water was the cheapest drink at the soda fountain.


    Of all the fruit that is commercially grown in the U.S., only the blueberry, cranberry and Concord grape are native to North America.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Water

    Even a glass of water can be special on Thanksgiving.

    Here’s a tip inspired by Ceylon Vogue tea, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (and itself a great party favor or host/hostess gift). Depending on the size of your pitcher, multiply the quantity of the ingredients below.

    If you plan to bring the pitcher to the table, any extra cranberries tossed in will add festive color.



  • 12 ounces of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 slice orange
  • 1/2 apple, sliced (a red skin is more colorful)
  • Optional: whole rosemary sprig
  • Optional: 3-4 cloves
  • Optional: whole raw cranberries

    It’s easy to make Thanksgiving-flavored water. Photo courtesy Cinnamon Vogue.



    1. BOIL water and add to a pitcher with cinnamon and orange. Let cool. Add optional cranberries.

    2. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.

    Cinnamon boosts your metabolism, among many health benefits.




    A particularly delicious brand of cinnamon tea. Photo courtesy Cinnamon Vogue.


    We taste a lot of flavored tea, and find much of it to be, well, meh. Personally, we’d rather have really flavorful, top quality origin tea than lesser tea infused with flavors.

    But we keep tasting, and sometimes we hit the jackpot, as with the outstanding Cinnamon Vogue Ceylon cinnamon tea, a Top Pick Of The Week.

    Made with high quality (premium large leaf) Ceylon tea and Ceylon cinnamon bark oil*, it’s vastly superior to teas we’ve had that blend tiny pieces cinnamon bark with the tea leaves—as nifty as that looks—or flavored with other oils or extracts.

    The “ultra premium cinnamon bark oil” used by Cinnamon Vogue, a Las Vegas-based importer, gives the tea a celestial aroma and a truly sophisticated cinnamon flavor.


    Cinnamon Vogue tea has no other additives, and has zero calories. It’s delicious plain, so try it that way before adding milk or sugar.

    At $12.00 per can (20 pyramid tea bags), it’s a wonderful holiday gift for just about everyone. Each bag is wrapped in a foil packet for freshness. One tea bag is strong enough to make two cups (which is true with all top quality tea).

    Get yours at
    *Cinnamon bark oil is one of the most costly food oils in the world. There’s no oily residue or other evidence of oil—just great flavor.



    Everyone knows that tea has antioxidants; so does cinnamon.

    Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the dried inner bark of trees that belong to the genus Cinnamomum (here are the different types of cinnamon). Different varieties are native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.

    Cinnamon has been consumed since about 2000 B.C.E. in ancient Egypt, where it was considered to be almost a panacea. Since then, it has been used as a curative in numerous situations: to control blood sugar, to alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and to treat everything from fungal infections to Alzheimer’s Disease and HIV.

    While you should question health claims made by manufacturers, here’s the scoop from Medical News Today.


    No surprise: ground cinnamon from the supermarket is typically made from less expensive Indonesian cinnamon. Photo courtesy McCormick. Look for Ceylon cinnamon from specialty stores like Penzy’s.



    Ceylon is the old colonial name for Sri Lanka, a tiny island off the coast of India. The black tea from the mountainous interior of the country has smooth flavor, medium body and a slightly fruity-honey finish. It is a favorite among black tea drinkers as a breakfast or afternoon tea. (Check out the different types of tea.)

    In addition to growing tea, Ceylon is a source of the world’s finest cinnamon. How about that for a marriage made in heaven (or at least, in Sri Lanka)?



    TIP: Things To Do With Tomato Juice

    A custom-flavored glass of tomato juice is a
    delicious drink. Photo by Ockra | IST.


    We love tomato juice as a drink (spicy Virgin Mary) and a cooking ingredient. Most people we know never buy it, unless they’re planning to serve Bloody Marys at a party.

    So today’s tip spans the wonderful world of tomato juice, and what you can do with it.

    First point: While it seems as if tomato juice should be “generic,” like milk, our taste test in search of the best tomato juice was eye-opening.

    Some brands were so bland, they needed vast amounts of seasoning—lemon juice, sea salt—to be palatable. Others were delicious right out of the can or jar.

    It’s not surprising, since different companies pay more (or less) for the best (or average) tomatoes.

    So buying a better brand isn’t mission-critical if you’ll be adding vodka, hot sauce and horseradish; but for other uses, treat yourself to the best (our favorite is Knudsen’s).



    A plain glass of tomato juice turns into a flavorful refreshment with the addition of seasonings.

  • Citrus: lemon, lime, yuzu, even grapefruit juice
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, dill parsley
  • Spices: chile, curry, nutmeg, paprika, pepper or whatever jumps off the shelf
  • Garnishes: asparagus, celery, dilly bean, fennel, jicama, green onion, pickle spear
    Add yogurt and blend a tomato smoothie!

    On a cold day, heat a cup of tomato juice in the microwave, with some of the seasonings above. It’s “tomato soup lite.”


    The Bloody Mary (and its numerous variations) is just one drink that uses tomato juice. Look up others, including the Cubanita (rum), Last Not Least (Scotch and cream), Prairie Oyster (Cognac, egg yolk), Red Devil (Irish Whiskey) and Sangrita.

    The Red Eye mixes tomato juice with beer (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).



    Use tomato juice as all or part of your cooking liquid. We make a deconstructed stuffed cabbage by cooking cabbage and meat balls in tomato juice.

    Cook beans, lentils and other legumes, or spinach, collards, kale and other greens, in tomato juice for a snappy flavor.


    Tomato sorbet or granita, with basil or other herbs, is a delicious palate cleanser. You can serve it year-round between courses, or as a summmer desert (we serve ours with a cheese straw).


    Make soup with a base of tomato juice instead of vegetable or chicken broth. Toss in vegetables and seasonings, and add optional beans, lentils or other legumes. Serve it plain or over rice or pasta.


    A childhood favorite, we loved the reddish-rice Mom made with cilantro, garlic and sometimes, black beans.


    Our favorite tomato juice. Photo courtesy Knudsen.

    What’s your favorite preparation using tomato juice? Let us know.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Infuse Your Own Tea

    There are so many flavored teas on the market. Many American consumers prefer them to plain teas.

    But did you know that you can flavor your own, using plain black, green, white or rooibos teas? Just look around your kitchen for things to infuse:

  • Fruits: apple, citrus peel/zest, lemon, orange, pear or other fruit
  • Herbs: mint
  • Spices: allspice, anise/star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger/fresh ginger/crystallized ginger, nutmeg, vanilla bean, turmeric
  • Sweeteners:Agave, honey, flavored syrup

    You can buy flavored tea, or infuse different ingredients into plain tea. Photo courtesy Republic of Tea.



    1. With a spice ball. We prefer the new twist-and-lock spice ball style.

    2. Loose. If you don’t have a spice ball, just infuse all of the ingredients in a large measuring cup, ideally one with a pouring spout. Then pour the tea through a strainer, into a cup.


    Ingredients For 1 Cup Of Tea

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ginger green tea bag or 1 teaspoon loose tea
  • 1 inch orange peel (no white pith)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 slice fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • Garnish: sliced lemon round


    1. HEAT water to a rolling boil. Place the tea bag, orange peel and spices in a glass measuring cup or other receptacle. Add water and orange peel.

    2. STEEP for 5-7 minutes. Remove tea bags and orange peel. Stir in lemon juice and agave nectar. Garnish with lemon round.

    Now for some gin in your tea! See yesterday’s tip.


    Hot and spicy. Photo courtesy David Rio.



    Masala chai is Hindi for spiced milk tea (masala = spice, chai = tea). It’s a strong black Indian tea infused with milk, sugar and spices—commonly cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn, clove and nutmeg (chocolate or licorice are sometimes included). While chai is traditionally made from black tea, green tea chai and rooibos chai have become popular in the West.

    There is no one “best chai recipe.” As with any other dish, the best version has the seasonings you prefer, in the strengths that you want.

    Here’s a basic masala chai recipe that makes eight cups of tea. Take it as a starting point and adjust the proportions next time.

    If eight cups is too much for you, cut back the recipe. Or, refrigerate the remainder, store it in the fridge and and heat it as needed. You can also drink it iced.

    TIP: If some people prefer unsweetened tea, or use a noncaloric sweetener, omit the sweetener and provide options at the table.
    Chai Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups whole milk (or substitute a lower fat or nondairy version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped fine
  • 4 teaspoons black tea leaves: Assam or other strong tea
  • 8 ounces honey or 4 ounces agave

    1. HEAT the water and milk to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the remaining ingredients except honey and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from heat and strain into another pot or bowl. Add sweetener and blend thoroughly.

    3. SERVE from a conventional teapot or a pitcher; or bring pre-filled cups the table.


    Check out the different types of tea and tea terminology in our Tea Glossary.



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