Ingredient SpotLight

It's cold and I'm freezing and I am craving chocolate. Fortunately, it's also February and that means there is chocolate to be had in association with Valentine's Day. But instead of reaching for chocolate hearts and roses, I'm in the mood to share some special recipes with you that are near and dear to my heart. Consider it my Valentine's Day gift to you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Mocha Magic

  • 3 c. water
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 3 T. espresso powder
  • 1/3 c. cocoa nibs
  • 2 T. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. vanilla vodka

Bring the water, sugar, espresso powder and cocoa nibs to a boil in a fairly large pot. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Try not to stir it a lot during the simmering process. Thicken to a syrupy consistency.

After 20 minutes, move the pot off of the burner, put a lid on the pot and let it sit until cold, and preferably overnight.

After letting this steep, strain the syrup to remove the cocoa nibs. I used a very fine strainer. Use the espresso-infused cocoa nibs in cookies or on ice cream.

When you've strained the syrup, mix in the vanilla and vodka, and then pour it into a clean bottle with a tight-fitting lid and let it age for a few weeks. It will taste much better once the flavors have had a chance to mingle.

  • Yields: 1 bottle
  • Preparation Time: 1 day plus aging time

Chocolate PB Surprise Cookies

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. sugar (plus more for rolling)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugars, butter and 1/4 cup of peanut butter until it's light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, beating to combine. Stir in the flour mixture and stir to combine, blending well. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter until smooth.

Measure out a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough and flatten it with your hands. Take about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter mixture and place it in the center of the chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball and roll the cookie in the sugar. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about a 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Let them stand on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

  • 4 c. skim milk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 4 - 77% Dark chocolate discs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • Cocoa nibs and whipped cream for garnish

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Heat until milk is scalded or almost boiling, about 2 minutes. Mix in the cocoa powder, spices and chocolate discs and let it sit for 1 minute. Using a whisk or hand blender, whisk the mixture until frothy. Serve hot and top with whipped cream and sprinkle generously with cocoa nibs. Garnish with hot chiles, if desired.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes