If you want to make your sweetheart something that is a little sweet and a little spicy for Valentine’s Day this year, try making a Salt and Pepper Mocha. This drink has a little kick to it – courtesy of Trader Joe’s Organic Stone Ground Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate. This is a coarsely ground, Mexican-style chocolate that TJ’s has been selling recently and it is perfect for making a grown up mocha or hot chocolate.
The chocolate comes in discs and it is easy to break up into pieces by hand. The chocolate has a very crumbly texture and, while you definitely get a sweet and fruity dark chocolate with your first taste, the salt and pepper flavors are very distinct. This gives the chocolate a savory, spicy quality that is a nice change of pace from other chocolates – and from other mocha drinks. I melted half a disc of the chocolate into a mug of hot coffee, then topped it off with hot, steamed milk to make my mocha. The coffee goes extremely well with the salt and pepper flavors in the chocolate, so the drink only needed a touch of milk to round it out. If you’re not a big dark chocolate fan, or simply prefer your mochas a little bit sweeter, feel free to stir in a bit more sugar than I used.
If you want to try this but don’t have access to the Salt and Pepper Chocolate, don’t worry. Simply substitute the same amount of dark chocolate and add a generous pinch of salt, along with a slightly smaller pinch of pepper, until the chocolate has a little kick to it.
There are all kinds of mocha and dark chocolate drinks out there. They’re delicious – no doubt about it – but sometimes I think that white chocolate is slightly underrepresented. I like white chocolate and there are plenty of coffee drinks that you can make using it, as well, but you might have to look a little bit harder to find inspiration than you do with regular mocha recipes. In this case, I found inspiration in a box of chocolates.
The first time I made this drink, I had a bunch of white chocolate truffles in my kitchen and simply popped them into my coffee. The white chocolate added a really nice sweetness to the drink, and the truffles melted smoothly. It is a must-try if you already have white chocolate truffles around, but a very quick and easy chocolate ganache lets me make this drink over and over again even if I don’t have some in the house already.
You can make this with strong coffee, or you can make it with espresso. I think that espresso is the way to go, since you get a slightly more intense coffee flavor, but more milk that will pick up on the richness of the truffles. If you are going for the coffee option and using whole truffles, you might find that you want to add one extra to sweeten it up a bit.
Single serve coffee makers are, hands down, the most convenient way to make coffee at home. The Keurig machine takes just a few minutes to warm up, the coffee is prepacked and and there is virtually no cleanup. The downside is that K-cups are fairly expensive (unless you are a very savvy shopper) and they can add up quickly if you drink a lot of coffee. Consumer Reports recently (March 2013) set out to see if there are K-cup alternatives that would work as well, but that could save you a little money in the long run.
They estimated that someone who drinks one K-cup a day ends up spending somewhere from $220-$275 on the little cups over the course of the year. They tested both disposable and reusable cups that work with Keurig machines but that are designed to be filled with coffee by the user. The original K-cups were still winners when it came to convenience, but they found at least one good alternative that could save you some cash in the long run.
Simple Cups are disposable cups that you fill with your own coffee. They cost less than the K-cups, but not by much. CR estimated that a cup-a-day drinker would still spend around $185 a year with these, including your own coffee. EZ Cups are reusable cups with disposable filters inside, and you also use your own coffee. They turned out to run about $135 a year, including coffee. Neither model was as easy to use as a K-cup and could be difficult to close.
The winner when it came to saving money and ease of use was the Keurig K-Cup Adapter, with its reusable cup and filter system. It’s only about $18, so your only cost after that is the coffee, at about $80 a year. It does require cleaning, but it offers a good value and was Consumer Reports top pick for a K-cup alternative.
Tea infusers have a lot more personality these days then they used to, and you’ll even find some that are specially designed for the holidays. The Tea to My Heart Infuser is a design that I’ve seen that is perfect for Valentine’s Day. The silicone infuser has a heart with an arrow through it. The main portion of the infuser is the heart, which opens to allow you to put loose leave tea inside. The shaft of the arrow is about 8-inches long, so it will be easy to retrieve even in large mugs. It’s also machine washable, so it is easy to clean.
While this would make a good Valentine’s Day gift (along with some nice tea), it is a gift that will keep on giving because it will last a lot longer than a box of chocolates will. And your loved one will always think of you when they’re having another cuppa.