Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Crackers

Sometimes the strangest food combinations are surprisingly the best. I love the pairing of sweet and salt, but when I first saw saltine crackers in a dessert recipe, I was skeptical.

This is super easy to make, and you can store the ingredients for entertaining emergencies - that is if you can refrain from eating the Van Otis chocolate in advance.

Salted-top saltine crackers - approximately 45-48
8 ounces of Van Otis Dark Chocolate Bark - approximately 30 squares
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an ungreased cookie sheet with whole saltine crackers. Break crackers to fill in the edges.

Melt one stick of butter in microwave or on stovetop. Stir in sugar. Drizzle butter and sugar mixture onto crackers.

Put cookie sheet into the oven for approximately 5 to 6 minutes.

While the crackers are in the oven, slowly melt Van Otis Dark Chocolate Bark either in the microwave or on the stovetop, being careful not to scorch.

When the butter begins to bubble on the crackers, remove cookie sheet from oven. Pour and spread melted chocolate on top of the butter/sugar mixture. Don’t worry about consistent texture. Crackers may be exposed in some spots.

Allow chocolate to harden and break into pieces. Crackers should be stored in a sealed container, under your bed if you prefer not to share.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peace Treatsy

There were so many notable conflicts during the 1970s and 1980s including the Vietnam War, bombings in Beirut, and who could forget the collision of chocolate and peanut butter. It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” and vice versa. I think we might have averted the chocolate/peanut butter argument if someone had thought to combine chocolate and liquor instead. Imagine a commercial where someone is walking along the sidewalk with a chocolate bar and accidentally collides with someone carrying a paper-bagged pint. Instead of an argument ensuing, I envision a euphoric scene with hearts, butterflies, and maybe even a pink unicorn - both parties are just that happy.

This kind of bliss exists at 341 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire and at Van Otis Chocolates’ confectioners have partnered some delicious chocolates and spirits including candied discs of Fragole Z Wine, Chocolate Raspberry Port Wine, Bacca Z Wine, French Brandy, and Cabin Fever Maple Whisky. Van Otis has also handcrafted the following truffles; some offers are limited, so hurry in!

Eggnog Truffle - These truffles are thickly layered with dark and milk chocolate and lightly sugar-coated. The creamy eggnog center has a hint of rum and nutmeg. It’s definitely a holiday-flavored treat.

Green Fairy Truffle - This truffle is a work of art with its powdered, mint green exterior. The extra creamy dark chocolate and strong absinth center is encased by a dark chocolate shell.

Cabin Fever Maple Whisky Truffle - This is another subtle alcohol offering with an interesting crunchy, dark chocolate exterior. The creamy chocolate center has a hint of maple flavor and an aftertaste of whiskey.

Baileys Truffle - A slightly bitter powdered exterior coats a milk chocolate shell, which encases a creamy chocolate and Irish cream center. These truffles are delicious!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Sheepish Lion

Nearly a year ago my husband and I decided to surprise our kids with a bombshell - a dog. Three out of four of us have extreme pet allergies, so the kids had resigned themselves to a dogless childhood. When my husband and I discovered that the poodle breed was an option, we began our covert search for the perfect pet.

Based on friends’ and family’s success with rescue adoption, we decided this was our best option. There are so many unwanted dogs no longer in the “cute puppy phase”, and we were looking for a grown dog.

Lambert (based on the Disney animation) arrived at Logan Airport from Illinois in December 2009. She’s a two-year old, black toy poodle with an amazingly passive disposition. Her foster family told us that she was rescued from a puppy mill, and she had enjoyed her rescue days with lots of other animals on a farm.

Today, Lambert relishes her role as sole family pet. She’s an equal opportunity lover, silly, and amazingly smart. We strongly recommend rescue adoption to anyone considering a pet.

Van Otis Chocolates, IncrediBREW, and the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire have partnered to create a chocolate cordial that features the award-winning chocolate raspberry port made by IncrediBREW as part of their Animal Rescue League series of wines. Partial proceeds from the cordial sales will be donated to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire.

The cordials can be purchased at IncrediBREW, Van Otis Chocolates, and the Animal Rescue League’s fundraising events. For more information, visit the companies’ websites:,,

Dress for Dinner

Unfortunately, mealtime etiquette is a fairly low priority for our family. With our hectic schedules we take pride in actually
having eaten rather than accomplishing that task with polish and grace. Seriously, it’s not easy enforcing manners while eating a nugget on the car ride from practice to rehearsal.

Holidays are our opportunity for a slowdown. I look forward to a festive table and even make an effort to put the utensils in their proper order and position.
I’m drawn to centerpieces, but my very practical side knows that they typically make a short-lived appearance before swiftly being replaced by the meal. So I’m constantly on the hunt for smaller, more permanent solutions to dress up the holiday table.

This year I’ve decided to add a surprise and no, I don’t mean a salad fork. Sidling the dinner plate will be a piece of chocolate in the small, covered dishes that I recently purchased at an unnamed, local retailer. (Don’t You Just Love a Bargain?) These dishes were intended for individual butter servings, but I think they’ll be perfect sweet treat holders.
When dinner guests find a Van Otis decorative truffle or foiled chocolate next to their plate, the burning question won’t be which fork to use but whether or not to eat dessert first. No need to consult Emily Post for that answer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Do You Have to Sneeze or Are You Doing Your Laundry

I had two important goals as a young girl. I was going to be either one of Charlie’s Angels or Bewitched’s Samantha Stephens. I spent hours working on my silhouetted angels’ pose and my nose twitch. I’m still pretty good at both, if I do say so myself.

Imagine being Samantha Stephens. Your housework, cooking, and childcare all done at the expense of a little nasal irritation. Sure, your mother and neighbors are a little annoying, but whose aren’t? Top that off with the fact that you get to change husbands without a messy divorce proceeding. As long as you keep calling him Darrin, no one will even notice!

Bring out your inner Samantha at the Witchy Women’s Celebration at
Van Otis Chocolates’ Elm Street, Manchester retail store on October 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Costumes aren’t required to attend the event, but there will be a $50 prize awarded for the best costume. There will also be wine tasting hosted by Zorvino Vineyards, chocolate fountains, giveaways, and raffles. Kids’ games will also be available because unlike Samantha, we can’t all leave our Tabithas unattended upstairs.

Sew Scary

Having been raised in a household of creatively-minded people, Halloween has always been a holiday of expression, from the pumpkin carving to the costumes. My sister and I had some enviable and memorable costumes over the years. Our mother, the seamstress, put all store-bought, nylon and plastic apparel to shame.

My love of a good disguise has been passed down to my daughter. She and her close friend spend most of their trick-or-treating time discussing their costumes for the following year. This gives them a mere 364 days to prepare.

Last year, her old lady costume was complete with a walker and crocheted handbag. She insisted on walking like an elderly person with aforementioned walker which made for slow trick-or-treating. She also carried hard candy and distributed a piece at every household we visited. I put my foot down when she asked to put moth balls in her pockets.

This year it’s all about simplification. The girls are going to be mimes, primarily so that they can write “Trick-or-Treat” on a sign and won’t have to talk. I guess last year’s costume really tired them out.

The real treats can be found at Van Otis Chocolates’ Elm Street, Manchester retail store and online at They carry decadent seasonal items such as pumpkin spice malt balls, pumpkin pie creams, pumpkin fudge, peanut brittle, chocolate Halloween-themed molds, chocolate Halloween-themed pops, and chocolate/caramel dipped apples. Happy Halloween!

May I See Your ID?

I have never understood the concept of lying about your age by decreasing the number. At age 40, I’m no stranger to sun damage, body by child birth, and the occasional gray hair. (Yes, I did lie about occasional.) No one is going to look at me without thinking I’ve had a rough 20 years. I have been known to lie about my age by adding 10 to 20 years. Think about it. Not only are seniors revered for their wisdom and experience, but I also think I make a pretty good looking 60-year old. Now there’s even more incentive to proudly admit your true advancing age. Seniors aged 55-74 - really aged 55-74 and older, not people like me - are being celebrated at Van Otis Chocolates’ Elm Street, Manchester retail store on October 7th and 8th with a 15% discount on most items with proof of age. Seventy-five-year olds or older are eligible for “buy one get one free” with proof of age. Also factory tours are only $5 and are open to ONLY seniors. For more information, call 603.627.1611

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cheek Pinchers

The role of grandparent is coveted by most people I know who carry the title. I’ve come to the realization that the joy lies in being able to dote and not worry about long-term consequences. For example, I’ve heard my own mother say things like, “Oh, chocolate ice cream at midnight won’t hurt them this one time.” I can attest that this was never a statement I heard as a child in her household. But in her role of Mimi, she knows it’s no longer her primary duty to build foundations, good habits, and routines; those responsibilities fall on me and my husband. How liberating!

The other great thing about being a grandparent is the opportunity to take full credit for the grandkids’ successes and none for their failures. I’m actually suspicious that grandparents’ eyes may not even see failures, although I’ve never seen a pamphlet on this at my optometrist’s office.

Van Otis will be celebrating Grandparents Day on September 13th and encourages you to treat them with their favorite Van Otis, handmade confection. Van Otis is also providing a forum for grandparents to spoil and brag by sharing a photo of themselves and their grandchildren on Van Otis’s
Facebook page and in their Elm Street, Manchester retail store. Spoilers and braggers will be eligible for Van Otis deals. For more information, visit

There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

Um, yes there is.

Educators use this phrase to encourage questions and class participation. I’m guilty of having said it once or twice during years of corporate training. I really meant that I’d like people to interact with me to avoid a four-hour monologue. And like any good educator, I waited until class had ended before privately giggling at the stupid questions.

We all know a stupid question when we hear it, and those who are honest with ourselves know a stupid question when we ask it. On more than one occasion I’ve called someone at their home and asked, “Where are you?” I blame cell phones for this - every single time I do it.

In the 1980s, some teachers decided to declare September 28th (or the last school day in September) as “Ask a Stupid Question Day” in order to encourage more student questions. I think this is a great idea for encouraging creativity and also for reassuring children’s developing egos that it’s okay to say something stupid and laugh about it.

Van Otis is jumping on board during their “75 Days of Chocolate” event by celebrating “Ask a Stupid Question Day” on September 28th. Customers are encouraged to stop by the
Elm Street store in Manchester and ask a stupid question. Participants will be rewarded with a smile, a free item, and possibly, a stupid answer. The person deemed as having asked the most stupid question of the day will receive one pound of chocolate.


A 75-year commitment to anything is quite a feat, especially a long-term relationship. It’s no wonder that the traditional U.S. wedding anniversary gift list suggests diamonds for anniversaries 60th through 75th. I’m a little confused by the 80th and 90th suggestions of oak and granite, but I wasn’t consulted when they made the list.

I scanned the list for chocolate and candy but didn’t find anything on either the traditional or modern U.S. lists. I’m assuming that it’s either implied - Happy 6th Anniversary, here’s your gift of iron and chocolate truffles - or alas, maybe it was an oversight. Again, it’s unfortunate that I wasn’t consulted.

This year Van Otis is celebrating a 75-year relationship with its better half, its customers. In appreciation of this successful partnership, Van Otis is showering its customers with a “75 Days of Chocolate” promotion to include give-aways, discounts, and much more. The promotion began in August and will continue through November. For upcoming promotions and events join the Van Otis email club or "like" them on facebook.

Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Van Otis

Van Otis Chocolates originated in 1935 and for 75 years, devoted patrons have frequented the shop for familiar favorites and contemporary creations.

The shop proudly embraces its roots which trace back to Evangeline Hasiotis, the daughter of a Greek-immigrant pastry chef. Seventy-five years ago, Evangeline introduced her chocolates in the family’s pastry shop and later opened her own shop in the early 1950s. The shop quickly developed a local reputation for being the place to go for quality chocolates, including Van Otis Swiss Fudge, which remains the company’s signature product today.

Today, Van Otis Chocolates resides at 341 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire and continues to carry on the traditions started by Evangeline, while embarking on new initiatives with innovative new products to further enhance the company’s reputation as a premier maker of fine chocolates and candies. The company prides itself as having “A Fresh Twist on Sweet Traditions”, offering its customers quality confections that can only be found in handmade products. These products are readily accessible at the Elm Street retail store, on the web at and in select stores throughout New Hampshire and other New England locations.

Van Otis is celebrating this milestone birthday and our loyal customers with a promotion called "75 Days of Chocolate". Van Otis is offering daily, weekly, and monthly specials including give-aways, product discounts, and much more. Stop by the shop, visit the website or "like" us on Facebook and join the party!

Since 1935, Van Otis Chocolates has been manufacturing and selling handcrafted premium chocolates and other fine candies. The Manchester-based 20,000 square foot facility houses a candy kitchen, retail store, and the newest addition, The Sweet Spot.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Partying Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Style

A luau is a Hawaiian feast featuring lots of food and typically, musical entertainment. Many of us in New England have attempted our version of this island celebration with plastic leis, inflatable palm trees, and faux-bamboo tiki torches. I mentioned we’re in New England, right?

We may be short of Pacific breezes, but we do know how to feast. No luau would be complete without the flavors of coconut, tropical fruits, nuts, coffee, and chocolate…even better, a combination of these flavors.

For a limited time, Van Otis Chocolates is offering Tropical Swiss Fudge covered in milk and dark chocolate. This is a staff favorite that tastes like chocolate and rich coconut. What a perfect treat for a luau or a mental-island getaway!

Van Otis is hosting a luau on Friday, June 25 from 11 am-6 pm and Saturday, June 26 from 10 am-3 pm. Join us for hourly giveaways and raffles, wine tasting, a chocolate volcano, coloring contest, and prescheduled factory tours. Most items will be offered at buy one get one free. It’s the biggest sale of the year, so come in and stock up!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mumma, Mumma, Mumma!

A head’s up to all my faithful blog readers, which had better include my children; Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 9. I want three things this year: an outdoor lounge chair, Bailey’s Irish Cream Truffles from Van Otis Chocolates, and an uninterrupted hour to enjoy hereto mentioned chair and truffles.

The last wish will likely go unnoticed. There are just too many stories that my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter need to share. Thankfully, many of them feed my needy sense of humor. In the spirit of story telling and laughter, here are some of my many memorable mommy moments.

My five-year-old daughter and I planted cherry tomato plants that had sprouted but weren’t turning red. I moved the pots and explained that I thought they needed more sunlight. She asked, “Can we eat them once they get sunburned?”

At age 7, my son was showering and exclaimed, “I’m getting hair, Mumma.” I slowly and hesitantly opened the shower curtain to find my son pulling on his arm hair.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms; may your day include a treat from Van Otis and a smile.

Teacup & Saucer with Chocolate PansiesChocolate High Heel Shoes

Free [free]

Webster’s Dictionary has 35 entries for the adjective “free”. All of the definitions have positive connotations, and three of those definitions directly reference enjoyment. Personal liberation, inhibition, and lack of self-restraint are all associated terms. To feel this way when making a sugar-free purchase, I turn to Van Otis Chocolates.

With many products, sugar-free equates lack of choice. I try to be a conscientious consumer for the health of my family, but often this means a limited variety in satiating our love of sweets.
Fortunately, Van Otis offers many of their hand-made confections in sugar-free form including their award-winning Swiss Fudge, Cashew Clusters, Coconut Clusters, Almond Butter Crunch, Macadamia Caramel Patties, Cashew Caramel Patties, Almond Bark, Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Butter Toffee, Milk Chocolate Raisin Clusters, Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patties, Orange Sherbet Creams, Vanilla Butter Creams, Black Raspberry Sherbet Creams, Maple Walnut Creams, Raspberry Jellies, Orange Jellies, Milk Espresso Truffles, Mint Truffles, Meltaways, Peanut Butter Truffles, and many more!

Vitamin DC

Most of us know that vitamin E is good for healthy skin and vitamin D promotes bone health. We also might be able to identify some of the foods possessing high doses of essential vitamins and nutrients, while admitting to our limited daily intake. Today, vitamin supplements are as common as the utensils sidling our plate.

What about vitamin DC or "dark chocolate"?

A study published on March 30, 2010 in the European Heart Journal suggests that small amounts of dark chocolate may dramatically lower a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke. Researchers followed 20,000 people for eight years, questioning their diet and exercise habits.

They found that people who had an average of six grams of dark chocolate per day, or about one square, had a 39% lower risk of heart disease or stroke. It’s believed that the health benefits stem from the flavinoids that are in chocolate. Flavinoids or flavinols are the brightly colored pigments found in fruits and vegetables. These can help decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and increase clarity of blood vessels leading to your heart and brain.

Van Otis offers Cambra Dark Chocolate Bars, Dark Chocolate Trail Mix Cups and Dark Chocolate Caramelized Almonds, which are made with Cambra dark chocolate, containing 72% cocoa content.

Of course, there are many other factors contributing to good heart health including diet and exercise. However, a table setting of fork, spoon, knife, and Cambra Dark Chocolate sounds like a good start to any dietary health improvement plan.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hop Out of Bed! It's Easter!

As chief assistant to all of our mystical, holiday visitors, I’m challenged by the late shift. Why can’t Santa Claus, Cupid, and the Easter Bunny come during normal business hours? I’ve had to make several excuses on behalf of the Tooth Fairy, who hasn’t always fulfilled her duty. It’s simply embarrassing - for her.

Having admitted to my need for sleep, I also have to admit that I love surprises. It gives me great joy to give my children something unique and pleasing to the eye. I appreciate what Van Otis has to offer this Easter season including fudge-filled eggs, Pixie Bunnies, chocolate-dipped Peeps, Gummie Bunnies, and jelly beans. They will also help you assemble a basket with sweets and stuffed animals found right in their retail store.

To make that Easter basket extra fun to find, add a game to your traditions. When your children get up on Easter morning, give them a plastic egg with a clue inside. This should lead them to another plastic egg and clue, leading them to another, and so on, until finally leading them to their basket. Use up to about a dozen eggs per child.

They’ll have so much fun that they’ll almost be disappointed when they get to the basket at the end, until they see it’s filled with treats from Van Otis.