(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Thinking outside the mug when it comes to hot chocolate can be a toasty seasonal treat. Hot chocolate "melts" are created in seconds to mimic gourmet chocolates, including familiar toppers like marshmallows. When wrapped in sachets, they become signature hostess gifts or party favors. When guests later unwrap them and drop them into heated milk, homemade hot chocolate appears. Another idea worth making a toast to: Hot chocolate mix is a tasty addition to brownies that are then crowned with mini marshmallows.
More ways to mix it up with hot chocolate mix:
- Sprinkle into your pancake, waffle or crepe batter
- Add to chili, mimicking Latin recipes
- Include in your favorite smoothies, along with peppermint extract and marshmallow creme
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
HOT CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hot chocolate mix or cocoa mix (see Note)
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
72 mini marshmallows
Yields 24 brownies.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Stir together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add flour, hot chocolate mix, salt and baking powder; stir until just combined. Stir in half the chocolate chips. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking pan.
Bake until brownies begin to pull away from the edges of the pan and are set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven, immediately sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips, and let stand until they are very soft, about 5 minutes. Spread the melted chips evenly with a spatula, and let cool. When completely cooled, cut into 24 squares and top each with 3 mini marshmallows.
Note: For best results, don't use hot chocolate or cocoa mixes that contain powdered milk or other dairy products, which can change the structure and texture of the brownies.
HOT CHOCOLATE "MELTS"
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
Toppings, to taste, such as mini marshmallows, chopped chocolate-covered mint patties, white chocolate chips or shavings
Parchment paper, for wrapping
Ribbon or string, for wrapping
Yields 12 to 16 melts.
Place chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds on medium heat. Carefully remove from microwave and stir. Repeat steps until completely melted.
Transfer melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle and use it to fill peanut butter cup candy molds or the bottoms of muffin tins. Sprinkle with toppings. Lightly tap mold or muffin tin onto flat surface to release any air bubbles. Refrigerate approximately 20 minutes, or until chocolate is hardened.
Meanwhile, cut parchment paper into 4-inch square pieces (you'll need 12 to 16). When chocolate is hardened, turn mold or muffin tin upside down on a flat surface and tap to remove finished chocolate pieces. Wrap in parchment paper and tie with a string or ribbon.
When serving: Unwrap and drop each one into a mug of heated milk for homemade hot chocolate.
-Ralphs.comQUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: In It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great
, Gwyneth Paltrow
suggests making your favorite chicken vegetable soup that simmers for a few hours. Afterward, discard the cooked vegetables, dice the white meat cooked chicken and add back into the soup along with two peeled and diced carrots and a bunch of kale, leaves stripped off the stem, in bite-sized pieces. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com..