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TIP OF THE DAY: Quick Chocolate Dipping Sauce With Biscotti Or Ladyfingers

If friends and neighbors are dropping by for some holiday cheer, here’s a very quick recipe for a delicious snack. It works well as a quick dessert, too.

Keep biscotti around—they have a long shelf life—or ladyfingers, which freeze well and can be revived in a minute in the microwave. Then, in less than five minutes, make this chocolate dipping sauce.

The combination goes with brandy, coffee, cola, fruity red wine, liqueurs, tea, and of course, a glass of milk.

Cubed pound cake, amaretto cookies and/or sliced fruit are also delicious with the chocolate sauce. Chocoholics may prefer brownie cubes or fingers.

The recipe makes enough for eight two-cookie servings. We turned to one of our favorite holiday snacks, Nonni’s Biscotti.

As a bonus, Nonni’s isn’t rock-hard like conventional biscotti made for dipping in coffee or a dessert wine like vin santo. You don’t have to dip it…although don’t hesitate to follow the tradition.

RECIPE: CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE FOR

This festive but easy recipe, which we adapted from Nescafé, is presented as individual servings.

But if you have a fondue pot, chafing dish, brazier, or other way to keep the chocolate sauce warm, you can set it on a table with a platter of biscotti, ladyfingers and other cookies.

Apple wedges and orange segments also works.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coffee or orange liqueur (e.g. Kahlúa, Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 16 to 24 biscotti or ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Optional: cayenne for a bit of heat
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT. Place chocolate and cream in a medium, microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 60 seconds. Stir with whisk until smooth.

    2. COMBINE. Whisk in liqueur and coffee granules until coffee is dissolved.

    3. ASSEMBLE. Divide the chocolate sauce among 8 small dessert dishes or whatever you have: brandy snifters, ramekins, rocks glasses, small wine glasses, tea cups, etc). Place 2 to 3 ladyfingers to each glass. Serve immediately.

    Alternative: Use a plate under the dish and put the biscotti on the plate.

    Tip: Serve with espresso spoons so everyone can scoop up the remaining chocolate sauce.
     
    Find more of our favorite desserts.
     
    ABOUT NONNI’S BISCOTTI

    Nonni’s Biscotti is the number one-selling biscotti brand in the U.S.

    Whether for a coffee break, snack or part of dessert, we’ve been enjoying Nonni’s since they came onto the market in 2012. There are flavors for everyone, plus special holiday editions.

     

    Dipping Biscotti

    Nonnis Biscotti

    Hot Chocolate With Biscotti

    [1] Warm chocolate dipping sauce with biscotti or ladyfingers: a quick and easy snack or dessert. Photo and recipe courtesy Nescafé. [2] Dip from a tea cup or whatever you have (photo courtesy Feast And Fable Blog. [3] Instead of gingerbread men, serve hot chocolate with Nonni’s holiday biscotti. Don’t want hot chocolate? The biscotti are great with coffee, brandy and liqueurs (photo courtesy Nonni’s). [4] Pick up a few boxes and treat family and friends (photo | THE NIBBLE).

     
    Nonni means “grandmother” in certain Italian dialects (nonna is mainstream Italian). As you might guess, the founder’s nonni came from Italy (almost a century ago), bringing the family recipe with her.

    Nonni never envisioned or Salted Caramel (our personal favorite) or Turtle Pecan biscotti; but thankfully, her grandson did. There are eight flavors, plus seasonal specialties like Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice.

    There are also five flavors (including cranberry) of Nonni’s ThinAddictives, a lower-calorie option.
     

    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF BISCOTTI.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Decorate With A Squeeze Bottle

    Salad With Flavored Oils

    Fancy Vegetable Plate

    Gravy Polka Dots

    Fancy Sorbet

    Chocolate Martini

    [1] Salad with three different flavored oil droplets (photos #1 and #4 courtesy Matthew Kenney Cuisine). [2] Vegetables with a mushroom sauce swirl (photo courtesy Wassail | NYC). [3] The most elegant way to serve gravy (photo courtesy Strip House | Las Vegas). [4] A fancy way to serve ice cream or sorbet, with a chopped pistachio nuts. [5] Garnish your drinks, too (Chocolate Martini photo courtesy Scrumpdillyicious).

     

    The same plastic squeeze bottles used to serve ketchup at some casual spots can also be used to create glamorous accents—dots, swirls, zigzags—on your everyday foods as well as special occasion fare.

    All you need are inexpensive squeeze bottles.

    You can keep them in the fridge, ready to do a maple syrup zigzag over French toast, flavored olive oil droplets in soups or on plates, raspberry purée for desserts, or anything else you want to dot, squiggle, swirl or zigzag .

    There’s no limit: sweet or savory, foods or beverages.

  • Beverages, including cocktails, can get the special lift. Just use a thicker sauce (e.g. chocolate syrup) on the inside of the glass and let it set a bit before adding the liquid.
  • Dessert sauces and honey
  • Gravy and jus
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Other oils: basil, chili, mustard, etc.
  • Other sauces
  • Purées and coulis
  • Salad dressing
  • Sriracha
  • Etc., etc., etc.
  •  
    SQUEEZE BOTTLE DO’S & DONT’S

    DO:

  • BUY smaller (6-8 ounces), thinner squeeze bottles. While bigger may seem better, you need to control the flow with a bottle what best fits in your grip.
  • PLAN not just the flavors, but the colors. The garnish needs to pop against both the food and the plate. For example, you won’t see a balsamic garnish on a red plate; and it won’t look too great next to brown meats.
  • USE additional garnishes as you like, such as fresh herbs, spices or berries (see our article on Garnish Glamour). Just don’t turn the plate into an overdone art project.
  • Check out the many videos on YouTube for inspiration and more complex techniques.
     
    DON’T:
  • USE this as an opportunity to create new flavor combinations. Test them first in the normal way, before you add blue cheese dressing swirls to a sausage plate.
  • OVER-DO it. Start with smaller amounts first, before you decide to cover an entire plate with polka dots.
  •  
    NEXT STEPS

    1. What are you cooking next? Pick your garnish and make a different design for everyone. Even a ham sandwich can be served with mustard and mayonnaise polka dots or swirls.

    2. Try different flavors with different foods. Maybe that ham sandwich would like a zigzag of sriracha mayo and a drizzle of honey mustard.

    3. Don’t forget the soup. We love it with a few droplets of flavored olive oil, or a swirl of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

    4. Plan your matches. If this is new for you, it will take you longer to decide on the sauce than create the designs. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for spontaneity. Just grab that bottle of ranch dressing, pour it into the squeeze bottle and garnish away!
     
    FINAL NOTES

    A squeeze bottle makes all of this easy.

    Designs don’t have to be perfect swirls or zigs.

    Whatever you start with will be just fine.

    You’re going to have a lot of fun with this!

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Licorice For Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

    Christmas Twizzlers

    Chocolate Covered Licorice

    Christmas Candy Cake

    [1] These Christmas Twizzlers are available at Target and elsewhere (photo courtesy Candy Warehouse). [2] You can buy the artisan version from confectioners. These are sold on Etsy by Nicole’s Treats. [3] Wowsa: a kid’s fantasy Christmas Cake from Cake Whiz. Underneath: a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

     

    December 16th is Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.

    We love chocolate-covered apples-on-a-stick, bacon strips, berries, citrus peel, cookies, dried fruit (apricots and figs are our favorites [sorry, raisins]), graham crackers, gummies, ice cream pops, maraschino cherries, marshmallows, nuts, orange segments, popcorn, pretzels and potato chips. You can buy them or make them.

    What we haven’t tried:

    Chocolate-covered baby octopus, calamari, carrots, insects, Cheetos, corn dogs, edamame, garlic, jalapeños, jerky, kimchi and seaweed (from Korea), mashed potatoes (a Paula Deen recipe), onions, pickles, roses (real roses on their stems!), Slim Jims and wasabi peas.

    One source even recommended dipping these latter items in chocolate fondue!

    So today’s proposal, chocolate-covered licorice, should not sound far out. For licorice lovers, it’s quite a tasty variation.

    While it’s the week before Christmas and we propose a red-and-green theme, you can use this easy recipe for any holiday where the licorice stick colors work (black, brown, green, orange, purple, red, yellow-green, etc. (Check out the colors at Candy Warehouse.)
     
    CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHRISTMAS LICORICE

    Twizzlers makes red, green and white twist (photo #1), which you can find at Target, Candy Warehouse and elsewhere.
     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED LICORICE
    (OR OTHER CONFECTION)

    Ingredients

  • Red licorice sticks (soft, not stale)
  • White chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate bar
  • Green food color
  • Optional: red and green sprinkles, confetti or other decorations (we had gold and white dragées at hand)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the licorice sticks in half. You can skip this step, but the half-sticks are easier to eat, and more size-appropriate when covered in chocolate.

    2. MELT the white chocolate in the microwave. We used a pie plate, which makes it easy to dip the licorice.

    3. TINT the white chocolate green. If you like, you can keep some of the batch white for drizzling over the green chocolate.

    4. DIP the licorice and set on wax paper to dry.

     
    TIP #1: We used sugar tongs. Ours have a serrated gripping edge.

    TIP #2: If you plan to store the licorice for a few days or longer, cut the wax paper in sizes that fit into the container. Then, just lift the wax paper and pop the sheet(s) into the storage container.

    5. DRIZZLE the optional white chocolate or add the sprinkles promptly, before the chocolate sets. If not using the same day…

    6. STORE in an airtight containe. We used our Le Creuset red rectangular baking dish, which makes a beautiful presentation; but you can use any baking pan and plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
     
    WHY IS LICORICE PRONOUNCED LICORISH?

    The Scots pronounce it “licoriss,” from the Old French “licoresse.” In England and the U.S., it is “licorish.” Here are two theories as to why:

  • The phoneme may have shifted from /s/ to /sh/, as happened with the words “pressure” and “sugar.”
  • A 1685 spelling of “licorish” in England leads to speculation is that this pronunciation originated in a regional dialect of English, which changed many final “s” sounds to “sh.”
  •  
    The history of licorice.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spiked Hot Chocolate

    Tomorrow, December 13th, is National Hot Chocolate Day, a drink that’s not just for kids.

    A few days ago we published an article on Christmas hot chocolate, to be enjoyed by all.

    But today’s recipes are for adults only. Turn your cup of hot chocolate into an adult drink with a touch of schnapps—or any spirit you prefer.

    And, if you like impromptu get-togethers, you can have an after-work hot chocolate cocktail party. You can even ask each participant to bring a favorite spirit.

    You can create pitchers of your favorite recipe(s) and microwave each cup (45-60 seconds at room temperature, test in advance) to order, before garnishing (we moved our microwave to the dining room buffet).
     
    WHAT TYPE OF LIQUOR GOES WITH HOT CHOCOLATE?

    Anything that goes with chocolate will work. That covers almost everything, except perhaps some very herbal liqueurs like Bénédictine. Start with whatever you have on hand:

  • Brandy or eau de vie
  • Gin, whiskey, etc.
  • Rum, regular or spiced
  • Vodka and tequila, regular or flavored (including hot chile)
  • Liqueur (anise, banana, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, coffee, hazelnut (or any nut), Irish cream, orange, peppermint, raspberry, vanilla, etc.)
  • Holiday-theme liqueur (e.g., cranberry, pumpkin)
  • Red wine (medium body, moderate tannins)
  •  
    In fact, you can gather your friends, ask everyone to bring a different flavor (whatever they have on hand) and party!
     
    HOW TO MAKE SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE

    We’ve got recipes for your consideration below, but there really is no wrong.

    Here’s an easy template for an 8-ounce cup:

  • 5 ounces prepared hot chocolate
  • 2 ounces* spirits (e.g., 1.5 ounce vodka and .5 ounce liqueur)
  • Optional rim: crushed crystallized ginger, hot chocolate/cocoa drink mix (with sugar), sparkling sugar, spice mix (e.g. apple pie or pumpkin pie blend, sweet-and-spicy (e.g., sugar and cayenne, ground ancho or crushed chile flakes)
  • Garnish: foamed milk (i.e. cappuccino foam), holiday spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise), matched to spirit (e.g., cinnamon stick with cinnamon liqueur), notched strawberry on rim, steamed milk (for a cappuccino-like topping), whipped cream or flavored whipped cream
  • Cookie side: for the holidays, serve a traditional Christmas cookie, gingerbread man or cutout, pfeffernusse, snickerdoodle or other favorite
  •  
    *You can add much more, if you want to turn the drink into a hot chocolate cocktail.

    Don’t see what you want below? There are countless spiked hot chocolate recipes online.
     
    RECIPE #1: BASIC, WITH FLAVORED VODKA/TEQUILA

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 1.5 ounces flavored vanilla vodka
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and chocolate shavings or cinnamon, crushed star anise, nutmeg or other spice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the spirits in a cup and add the hot chocolate. Stir, garnish and serve. How easy is that?
     
    RECIPE: CANDY CANE “MARTINI”

    Prepare as per Recipe #1, above.

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces flavored vanilla vodka
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce crème de menthe
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and crushed candy cane
  •    

    Spiked Hot Chocolate

    Hot Chocolate With Flavored Vodka

    White Hot Chocolate With Spiced Rum

    Grand Marnier Hot Chocolate

    [1] Irish cream liqueur and hot chocolate are a match made in heaven, here with a topping of steamed milk and cocoa mix (photo courtesy Polka Dot Bride). [2] Regular vodka is fine, but flavored vodka adds an extra layer of flavor (photo courtesy Smirnoff, which used its whipped cream-flavored vodka). [3] Don’t forget white chocolate, with spiced rum or RumChata, a rum-based cream liqueur (photo © Cheri Louglin Photography). [4] Grand Marnier hot chocolate (photo courtesy Sweatpants And Coffee).

     
    RECIPE: GRAND MARNIER/COINTREAU HOT CHOCOLATE or MARGARITA HOT CHOCOLATE

    Our second favorite, after Irish cream liqueur. Prepare as per Recipe #1, above.

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 2 ounces Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and grated orange zest or candied orange peel
  •  
    Variation: Margarita Hot Chocolate

  • 2 ounces Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  •  

    Mexican Hot Chocolate With Tequila

    Chocolate Cocktail

    [5] Mexican hot chocolate with tequila, of course (photo courtesy Creative Culinary). [6] Try a matching rim. This one is a blend of cocoa drink powder and cayenne for Mexican hot chocolate (photo courtesy X Bar | Hyatt Regency | LA).

     

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE GRASSHOPPER

    This one’s for you, Rajesh Koothrappali. Prepare as per Recipe #1.

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur
  • 2 ounces crème de menthe
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Amaretto- or mint-infused whipped cream (recipe below)
  • Garnish: mint leaf
  •  
    LIQUEUR-FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM.

    You can use any liqueur. To use an 80-proof spirit such as bourbon whipped cream, you can add 1-2 extra tablespoons of sugar for a sweeter whipped cream. (personally, we prefer it with less sugar).

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and whip with beaters or use a whipped cream dispenser like iSi.

    Here are more flavored whipped cream recipes.
     

    FOOD 101:

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOT COCOA & CHOCOLATE

    There is a difference between cocoa and hot chocolate. After you read it, you may prefer the latter (we do!).
     
    THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CORDIAL, FRUIT BRANDY, LIQUEUR, EAU DE VIE, LIQUEUR, SCHNAPPS

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color—and in the case of fruit brandy, the base alcohol.

     

  • Liqueur (lih-CUR, the French pronunciation) is made by steeping fruits in alcohol after the fruit has been fermented; the result is then distilled. Liqueurs are typically sweeter and more syrupy than schnapps.
  • Schnapps (SHNOPS) is made by fermenting the fruit, herb or spice along with a base spirit, usually brandy; the product is then distilled. This process creates a stronger, often clear, distilled spirit similar to a lightly flavored vodka. “Schnapps” is German for “snap,” and in this context denotes both a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruits, plus a shot of that spirit. Classic schnapps have no added sugar, and are thus less sweet than liqueur. But note that some manufacturers add sugar to please the palates of American customers.
  • Eau de vie (OH-duh-VEE), French for “water of life,” this is unsweetened fruit brandy—i.e.,schnapps.
  • Cordial has a different meaning in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it is a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink. In the U.S, a cordial is a sweet, syrupy, alcoholic beverage: liqueur.
  •  
    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for a liqueur or cordial.
     
    Fruit Brandy Vs. Liqueur

  • Liqueur is sweeter, and typically made from a grain-based alcohol.
  • Fruit-flavored brandy is made from a grape-based alcohol. Be sure to buy one that is all natural, i.e., made with real fruit instead of flavored syrup. With a quality brand, the fruit is macerated in the alcohol, then filtered out prior to bottling.
  • There are a few Cognacs-based liqueurs such as Chambord (raspberry), Domaine De Canton (ginger) and Grand Marnier (orange). Cognac is a higher-quality brandy made according to the stringent standards of the Cognac commune of southwestern France.
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    FOOD FUN: Green Bean Wreath

    Deck the halls with…green beans!

    You can serve this green bean wreath in several ways:

  • Crudités, with raw or blanched fresh green beans and a bowl of dip in the center.
  • Salad, raw or blanched, tossed in vinaigrette.
  • Steamed, and tossed with salted butter and fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley).
  •  
    RECIPE: GREEN BEAN SALAD

    Choose the smaller beans: They’ll be sweeter and more tender. Long, thicker beans have been left on the vine too long, and can be tough and tasteless.

    Fresh green beans should be tender enough to eat raw, and should have a crisp snap when you break them apart. If they’re rubbery and bend, pass them by.

    Depending on the other sides, plan for 4-8 servings per pound of beans.

    Ingredients

  • Green beans, trimmed and blanched or lightly steamed
  • Red onion, small dice
  • Dijon vinaigrette
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (red or mixed colors)
  • Fresh basil leaves, shredded (chiffonade) or other herb, chopped
  • Optional: anchovies, halved in a mustard vinaigrette, garnished with quartered hard-boiled eggs.
  • Garnish: large red bell peppers for the “bow”
  •  
    For The Vinaigrette

  • Olive oil and wine vinegar in a 3:1 proportion
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Green Bean Wreath

    Green Bean Salad

    [1] Green bean and bell peppers crudités wreath from Between The Bread | NYC. [2] Re-arrange this green bean salad into a salad wreath (photo courtesy Keys To The Cucina).

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the vinaigrette. Toss the green beans and onion with the vinaigrette and refrigerate in a covered bowl to let the flavors meld.

    2. CUT the bell peppers into even strips. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then…

    3. DRAIN and mound the beans onto a serving plate in the shape of a wreath. Decorate the wreath with the tomatoes and anchovies and sprinkle with the herbs. Arrange the “bow” at the top or bottom.

      

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