Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hot cocoa gifts with a personal touch!

Create  personalized holiday gifts by mixing up batches of this easy hot cocoa mix and flavoring it to each loved one’s tastes. Package it in a jar or a holiday design Ziploc® Brand Container and for a final tasty touch, include a couple of chocolate-dipped spoons tied with a pretty ribbon.

1 cup instant nonfat powdered milk
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips, preferably semi-sweet
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
 Recipient Directions:
 In a medium-size bowl combine the powdered milk, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and sugar.
 Heat 3 cups of water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. When the water is steaming, whisk in the cocoa mixture from Step 1. Whisk until smooth and heated through, about 5 minutes. Divide the cocoa between 4 mugs and top each serving with some marshmallows and, if desired, serve with a chocolate spoon (see Chef's Note).
Gifting Options:
To make a wonderful gift or present for a co-worker, neighbor or teacher, put the cocoa mix from Step 1 into the bottom of a pretty 24-ounce jar. Next, layer the marshmallows on top, close the lid and use colorful ribbon to tie some of the chocolate-covered spoons to the neck of the jar. You can also put the cocoa mix in a holiday design Ziploc® Brand Slider Bag and the marshmallows in another and package them together in a cute box, such as a Chinese take-out-style container (you can find these at craft stores). Write the directions for fixing the cocoa on a label or a gift tag and decorate the box with chocolate-covered spoons. The dry cocoa mix will keep for about three weeks.
You can make different flavored cocoas by adding spices or other delicious ingredients. Simply stir the flavorings into the cocoa mixture in step 1. Here are some examples:
Mexican Hot Cocoa: 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Spiced Hot Cocoa: 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Holiday Hot Cocoa: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Ginger Hot Cocoa: 1 teaspoon ground ginger
Mocha Hot Cocoa: 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
Peppermint Hot Cocoa: 1 teaspoon peppermint extract stirred into the hot cocoa as it's cooking with the milk (during Step 2). Or simply serve the hot cocoa with a candy cane, to use as a stirring stick.
Chef's notes
To make chocolate spoons, melt 2 cups of chocolate chips in the microwave by heating for 15 seconds. Then stir the chips and heat an additional 15 seconds until chips are fully melted. Stir 1 teaspoon of vegetable shortening into the melted chocolate. Holding a plastic spoon by its handle, dip the bowl of the spoon into the chocolate mixture and place each dipped spoon on a wax paper-lined sheet pan to set. You can also sprinkle the chocolate-covered spoons with crushed candy canes immediately after dipping them for a festive look and flavor.
Allow the spoons to set for 15 minutes at room temperature and then, freeze them to allow the chocolate to harden. Use the spoons as stirrers when serving hot cocoa or wrap them in cellophane and use them to garnish a package of the hot cocoa mix when giving as a gift. The spoons do not have to be kept in the freezer.