Hot Cocoa My Way

Winter is really settling in here in New York with cold temperatures, lots of wind and the occasional snow.  One of my favorite ways to warm up from the cold is a nice, rich cup of hot chocolate. I use Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate when I am feeling very decadent but there are so many variations that make a plain old cup of Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa taste really great too!  Today, January 31st, just so happens to be National Hot Chocolate Day. In celebration of this wonderful day, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate – simply stir your mix your hot chocolate with a peppermint candy cane

Mocha Hot Chocolate – Instead of using water to make your hot chocolate, use coffee.  This is one of is a go-to when I am feeling really tired!

Hot Chocolate Affogato – This is more of a dessert than a hot chocolate… put 2 scoops of your favorite ice cream in a mug and pour the hot chocolate right over the top.  I recommend vanilla if you are a purist but if you’re not try something fun like Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food!

Elvis Presley Hot Chocolate – One of the king’s favorite sandwiches was Peanut Butter & Banana.  Add these flavors to your hot chocolate by making a ‘smoothie’  In a blender combine 1 banana, ¼ cup peanut butter and 1 ½ cups hot chocolate. Be careful when blending hot liquids as there is the possibility for explosion.

Nutty Hot Chocolate – Instead of making your hot chocolate with regular milk or water, use almond milk.  The flavor is rich and the taste is delicious.

What is your favorite variation on a classic hot chocolate?

Happy Friday,

Julie

Four Years(Plus) in the Making

This week Julie’s Beet celebrated its 4th Anniversary.  It is hard to believe that it was just four years ago that I had boxes of products stacked in our apartment.  And when the weather warmed up and all of the chocolate moved into our bedroom(for the air conditioning) my husband suggested I move Julie’s Beet to its own location.  I moved into our showroom on 80th Street shortly after Julie’s Beet launched online.  Since then we have continued to grow and change.  A few of our products have come and gone but it is nice to see friendly faces(items) remain on the website year over year because you love them as much as I do! I’m proud of how we have grown at Julie’s Beet but also proud of the way we have maintained what is important to us…

We have posted to our blog weekly since Julie’s Beet began.  The blog is a just one way we add a personal touch to the website by telling you family tales and sharing some of our favorite recipes.  It is not an easy feat to come up with something new and interesting to talk about week after week.  Please let me know what you’d like to see up on the blog. And if you’re reading this you’ve found our blog.  You can also follow the blog by simply adding your email here and you’ll get our blog posts sent directly to your inbox.

I’m very proud that we continue to support smaller producers from around the world.  We’re constantly looking for the next artisan who will join our roster of talented producers.  I continue to love telling the stories behind the products to anyone who will come in and listen. I also love sharing the joy when our artisans are recognized for all of their greatness. 

My love of food and cooking has never been stronger. Nothing brings me more pleasure than putting a smile on someone’s face through the gift of food.  Whether it is something home-made or a beautiful gift set or a bite of a really special bar of chocolate, food has a power over people and I love being able to spread that joy. Being a business owner has its fair share of challenges but the return on the investment is well worth it.

As I look ahead to the next four years, I get a little tingly thinking about all of the possibilities for growth. I cannot wait to try what you or your neighbor might be cooking up and I cannot wait to tell the story behind that very special product.  Here’s to more culinary adventures around the world!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Recipe vs. No Recipe

I’ve always loved to cook. I grew up in a family that cooked. I have very fond memories of working together with my grandmother, mother and sisters to put together a Hanukkah celebration at the St. Louis Botanical Garden.  I have fond memories of making pies late on Christmas eve with my dad and sisters.   Most of my cooking memories when I was younger involved family and the holidays. My sisters and I also used have what we called ‘gourmet lunch’ on occasion. Looking back I realize this was a way for our babysitter to get us to prepare lunch but we loved it.  Everyone drew a course and went to work making something for the group with whatever was available in the kitchen.  It was a Food Network Chopped before that came around.  Some of the dishes worked and some of the more creative ones weren’t quite as delicious or edible!  As I got older(high school age) and could cook by myself, my mom often asked me to help with dinner. I loved that being in the kitchen but what I didn’t love was following a recipe. I wanted to be creative, not measuring and following directions.

I love cookbooks for their delicious stories about food and the ideas they provide for mixing new ingredients together. Check out our Pinterest Board for some of our favorite cookbooks. Unless I am baking, I typically use recipes as a guideline for flavors and quantities but allow myself to stray.  I learned a great lesson from my son’s teacher last year… Once you have done something the right way (i.e. followed the recipe or built the Lego kit the way it is intended to be built) you can do it in a new way.  This is a great lesson for a three-year-old and for grown-ups. Then I came across this great article in the New York Times by Sam Sifton, You Don’t Need a Recipe.  In the article Mr. Sifton describes guidelines for cooking a certain dish but not a strict recipe.  He points out that it takes practice to have the confidence to execute a dish without following a recipe but we can all get there if we try. I got some great ideas from the flavor profiles he outlined and signed up to receive the What to Cook Newsletter and get no-recipe ‘recipes’ sent to my inbox each week.

I cook dinner 6-7 nights a week at my house so I am always looking for inspiration on what to bring to the table.  Some of the dishes will be winners with my family and some won’t; that is all part of the process. Follow our Instagram account(@juliesbeet) and check out our stories to see what I am cooking most nights of the week. When a dish works out, I often publish a recipe in the form of an Instagram post or place it in the Recipe Box on the Julie’s Beet Website.  I hope you’ll follow along! 

Happy Friday,

Julie