How to Win Your Date with Chocolate (and Cocktails)

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It's the season of love, and while most prefer to dazzle their dates with boxes of chocolates, we like to dazzle them with chocolate-infused cocktails. So Valentine's Day is the perfect time to whip out the often forgotten bottles of chocolate liqueurs hiding in the back of the home bar.

Bobby Gleason (also known as "Bobby G."), the mixologist behind the newly launched Crave Chocolate Liqueurs line (that includes a mint chocolate, chocolate cherry, and chocolate and chile flavors), shared why chocolate liqueurs make the perfect cocktail — and not just the perfect Valentine's Day cocktail. Chocolate liqueurs spur on lots of new flavors profiles you don't normally get in a drink. "I want to have that beautiful marriage of flavors [when making drinks], and then something unexpected that makes your eyes light up," Gleson says.

When thinking about how to use chocolate liqueurs, Gleason says the first flavors that come to mind are obvious: fruit and nuts. But don't be afraid to think about other flavors when thinking of chocolate-based cocktails; coffee, caramel, hazelnuts, florals, lavender, and even some spices also work well in them. Take the Chocolate and Chili flavor from Crave: "A lot of people don't associate chocolate and chile together," says Gleason. "But when you think of the culmination of Latin food — like a mole sauce — the flavors work really well together."

When thinking about your chocolate cocktails, be sure to think of what spirits work best with the chocolate. After all, a cocktail consists of a base alcohol and a modifier; in this case, the modifier is the chocolate. "The base spirit and the modifier really need to balance each other out," Gleason says. Some of the best spirits to use when making a chocolate cocktail:

• Bourbon: An obvious choice, Gleason says a trick he likes to use is to thin out peanut butter with cream, then add chocolate liqueur and bourbon for a nutty cocktail.

Aged whiskeys, tequilas, and rums: Why the aged spirits? Anything aged in a wood barrel is going to take on some vanilla and wood notes that meld well with the chocolate.

Whipped cream vodka: Yeah, we never thought we'd be telling you to stock up on that Pinnacle whipped cream, but let's be real you won't find an easier 1-2 punch to make.

Want some chocolate liqueur inspiration for Valentine's Day? These three easy cocktail recipes will do the trick.

Crave Whipped Cherry Creamsicle

Crave Wicked Love

Crave Spicy Affair

Recipe Summary

  • 1 tablespoon raw unrefined coconut oil, plus more for brushing pan
  • 1 3/4 cups walnut pieces
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • Flaky sea salt

Brush a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with oil and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides.

In a food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups walnuts, dates, peanut butter, vanilla, and kosher salt until finely chopped and mixture holds together. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly knead to pack together pat into an 8-inch square. Refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate with oil. Halve nut mixture and press one part into loaf pan. Drizzle with half of chocolate. Refrigerate until chocolate just begins to set, 10 minutes.

Press in remaining nut mixture and spread with remaining chocolate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts and flaky salt. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. To serve, let stand at room temperature 10 minutes, then remove from pan using parchment before slicing.

15 Incredible Recipes That Will Impress Absolutely Anyone

There are a few dishes that, if you know how to make them at home, will definitely earn you praise. They're classic, they're impressive, and they taste amazing. Perfect these 15 recipes and everyone will think you're the best chef around.

1. NOLA BBQ Shrimp

Cook shrimp with the flavors of New Orleans, and your guests are guaranteed to ask for seconds.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie, you can win anyone's heart. This recipe from Jacques Torres is your ticket.

3. Cheese Soufflé

Being able to cook a soufflé is the ultimate sign of an expert chef. Let Julia Child be your guide.

If you walk out of the kitchen with lobster on your serving tray, you will turn heads for sure, especially when that lobster is drenched in coconut butter and pineapple green curry sauce.

5. Fruit Tart

Make the prettiest, tastiest breakfast ever with this fruit tart.

6. Garlic-Yogurt Baked Chicken

There are about a billion ways to cook chicken and almost as many ways to cook it badly. This foolproof recipe will ensure you get it right.

7. Honey Goat Cheese Pizza

This homemade pizza topped with honey goat cheese and caramelized onions will have everyone swooning.

8. Cream Puffs

You pretty much need to master profiteroles, aka cream puffs, as they are the consummate French dessert.

9. Molten Lava Cakes

Are you ever sad to be served a molten chocolate lava cake? Of course not. Your guests will be thrilled to end their evening this way.

10. Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon, aka beef Burgundy, is another French dish that needs to be a part of your fancy food repertoire.

11. A Better Brownie

These are the best brownies ever. Perfect them and you'll be everyone's favorite.

12. Hearty Bolognese

If you know how to make a good Bolognese sauce, you will always have a wonderful dinner at your fingertips, whether it's for a weeknight alone or a weekend with guests.

13. Sweet Potato and Lime Taquitos

Anybody can throw together a taco. Taquitos, on the other hand, will show your guests just how amazing you are.

14. Chicken and Artichoke Ravioli

Pasta may sound boring, but homemade ravioli is the absolute best.

15. Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Braid

Even the most delicious chicken pot pie can look homely until you turn it into a beautiful braid. This is comfort food at its most delicious and most gorgeous.

Jane Maynard is a food blogger at This Week for Dinner and Babble, a writer and designer, and a lover of all things chocolate.

Ina Garten’s Super Bowl Cocktail Pairs Perfectly With All of Your Salty Game Day Snacks

Whether your team wins or loses this Super Bowl Sunday, one of the most important parts (at least, in our eyes) is making sure you win &mdash with a spread that’s fully packed with an abundance of munchies and the right beverages. After all, what good is a side of wings without a delicious drink to top it off with? That’s why we were thrilled to see that Ina Garten shared a new cocktail recipe for you to enjoy ahead of the big game: Frozen Palomas. Hey, despite what most Super Bowl ads would have you believe, not everyone is a big beer fan. Honestly, we’re cheering for this pretty drink.

“For the Super Bowl game, how about some cool and refreshing Frozen Palomas to go with those salty snacks? You can make big pitchers of them and store them in the freezer so you won&rsquot miss a thing!” wrote the Barefoot Contessa, adding: And don&rsquot forget Fresh Crab Nachos, also on my website.”

Oh, Ina &mdash you just get us, don’t you?! The chef’s suggestion to pair her cocktail with her nachos is one of the best ideas we’ve heard today, but regardless of your planned Super Bowl snack menu, Garten’s Frozen Palomas recipe is a winner in our book.

While her nachos aren’t make-ahead friendly Garten’s drink sure is. In fact, you’ll need to freeze this combo of liquids for at least six hours before you enjoy it (or you can just leave overnight).

Caramel Irish Coffee

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

There is no Irish cream in the original Irish coffee, but it's a fun addition to modern incarnations of the recipe. The caramel Irish coffee, for instance, pairs Baileys with Irish whiskey, butterscotch schnapps, and the best hot coffee you can brew. It's as delicious and satisfying as it sounds, too!

Date caramel and chocolate pots

Place the dates in small bowl. Add boiling water, enough to cover the dates, and leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Drain the dates and pop them into a food processor. Blitz the dates into a paste. Add the vanilla extract and coconut cream. Blitz the mixture again for a good 3 minutes to get the caramel as smooth as possible. Divide the mixture between four ramekins and refrigerate while you make the ganache.

To make the ganache: Place the dark chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the coconut cream to boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute, then whisk the chocolate and cream together until smooth.

Divide the ganache between the four ramekins, spooning it over the caramel. Allow to stand and cool for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe reprinted with permission of Cupcakes and Couscous. To see more click HERE.

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3 Ways to Eat Chocolate Every Day and Feel Okay About It

I highly recommend keeping mini semisweet chocolate chips on hand at all times. The petite size of this baking-aisle staple means a little goes a long way&mdash1½ teaspoons only adds 35 calories to this chocolate-studded cannoli fix.

Mix 1/4 cup light/lowfat ricotta cheese, 1 no-calorie sweetener packet (like Truvia), and ⅛ tsp vanilla extract until combined. Stir in 1 tsp mini semisweet chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into a sugar cone (the pointy kind, not the flat-bottomed variety), and top with 1/2 tsp chocolate chips. Super-yum for one, but feel free to double up! Per cone: 147 cal, 5 g fat (1.5 g sat), 7 g pro, 19 g car, 0.5 g fiber.

Almond Kiss crunchettes

I absolutely love Hershey's Kisses: The iconic candy has only around 25 calories per foil-wrapped sweet, so they're perfect for low-calorie recipes, like these three-ingredient wonders.

Place 15 frozen mini phyllo shells on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until Kisses are hot and soft, about 3 minutes. Immediately (and carefully) press a roasted almond into the center of each chocolate-filled shell. Per serving (3 crunchettes): 128 cal, 7.5 g fat (2.5 g sat), 3 g pro, 16 g car, 0.5 g fiber.

Chocolate caramel muffins

Boxed cake mix is a great base for D.I.Y. guilt-free goodies&mdashas long as you don't add butter, oil, eggs, or any of the other fattening ingredients the package instructions say you need. Use devil's food cake mix to make these rich, gooey, low-cal treats.

In a large bowl, combine a box of devil's food cake mix with 1 (15-oz) can of pure pumpkin until completely smooth and uniform. (The batter will be thick, but don't add anything else.) Scoop batter into a 12-cup muffin pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Press a cube of chewy caramel halfway into the center of each muffin, and smooth batter over the top. Bake at 400°F until a toothpick inserted into a muffin (avoiding the caramel) comes out mostly clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, and sprinkle 1 tsp of powdered sugar over muffins. Per muffin: 197 cal, 3.5 g fat (2 g sat), 2.5 g pro, 40 g car, 2.5 g fiber.

How to Make Our Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes (Only three steps!)

This recipe couldn’t get much easier. The batter comes together quickly and requires simple, everyday ingredients. Here’s a quick overview of how to make them (the full recipe is below):

  1. Whisk or sift dry ingredients together (we call for all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder).
  2. Mix oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and sugar, and then add to dry ingredients — A spoon or spatula is perfect for this. The batter will be thick, but this step makes sure that the flour gets coated in the oil, which means that your baked cupcakes will be light, soft and very moist in the middle.
  3. Stir in very hot water or coffee — This is a common trick when making chocolate cake. The hot liquid helps the cocoa bloom, which just means it will have a deeper, more rich chocolate flavor when baked. Coffee and chocolate are baking superstars. You won’t taste the coffee in the cupcakes, but you will have a more rounded, flavorful chocolate cupcake.

FAQ: Why do you add vinegar to the cupcakes batter? Vinegar reacts with the baking soda and makes the baked cupcakes extra fluffy and more airy than if we were to leave it out. You don’t taste the vinegar, but it’s a game changer for texture in these cupcakes!

The cupcakes bake for around 20 minutes in the oven. When you take the cupcake pan out of the oven, leave the cupcakes in it until they are cool to the touch. When the cupcakes have cooled, remove them from the pan and frost with your favorite frosting. (We’ve included a simple vanilla buttercream in the recipe below that can be made vegan if needed.) Or you can take a look at some of our other cupcake recipes that have different frostings on top:

  • These Double Chocolate Cupcakes have a simple sour cream frosting spooned on top.
  • Our Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes have a lighter version of cream cheese frosting.
  • These Pumpkin Cupcakes have a more traditional cream cheese frosting.
  • Or for a more traditional chocolate buttercream, look at this Chocolate Cake

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Once coated, the chocolate coated caramels will keep 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Softer caramels: This recipe makes soft and chewy caramels, for softer caramels, experiment with adding 2 to 4 more tablespoons of cream.
  • Corn syrup substitutes: Corn syrup is reliable in this recipe, however, we have had success substituting pure honey and golden syrup.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

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