Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fa La Stinkin' La

Years ago we invested in an artificial Christmas tree. Yes, we’re those people. We did it as a matter of principle. One year Christmas trees cost an average of $16, and the following year they were $40. Maybe it didn’t happen that quickly, but that’s what it felt like.

Last year we were digging out the Christmas decorations and could not find the base for our tree. How does something like that go missing? It’s not like we said, hey, we don’t really need this anymore, or, gee, this is taking up too much space. But, poof, it’s gone.

Ironically, we still had a stand for live trees - $16 ones – so my husband rigged up a solution that involved wooden blocks, several people, and a lot of patience.

This year I decided that I’d surprise the family by getting the tree up, lit, and ready for decorating. I had forgotten about needing several people and patience, and so the unspeakable happened – I swore at our Christmas tree.

I didn’t just swear near the Christmas tree. I swore right at it.

This clearly had to be bad ju ju. So I took a moment and grabbed a Van Otis Gingerbread truffle. This was exactly the burst of holiday that I needed. I love the spiced crunchy coating on the outside of its dark chocolate shell. The center is so creamy and tastes just like a gingersnap cookie. Yum, yum, yum.

I quickly got back into the holiday spirit, apologized to my plastic tree, and successfully finished the task at hand. No one is allowed to walk too closely or briskly by the tree – just in case.

Find other holiday-ins truffles and candies such as Gingerbread, Eggnog, Dulce de Leche, Hazelnut Praline, Candy Cane, Champagne, and my kids’ favorite, Pomegranate truffles, at Van Otis’ Manchester retail store on Elm Street in Manchester or online at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Snowball Fights

I’m sitting here enjoying a little treat of Van Otis Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds. These crunchy almonds are coated with a sugar-glazed crunch and surrounded by handmade milk chocolate. Each chocolate-covered almond is hidden by a layer of powdered sugar, making them look like tiny snowballs in a bag.

This reminded me of the snowball fights that we’d have in my childhood neighborhood. Everyone would run home from the bus stop after school, put on oversized parkas and moon boots, and meet outside.

There was always that one kid who delayed battle by spending all afternoon on a snow fort. It was proportional, fortified, the envy of the snow kingdom. The fort came complete with a stockpile of symmetrical snowballs, which were finished just about the time our moms called us in for dinner.

Then there was the kid who was ready for war. He’d burst out of the house and immediately grab anything resembling a snowball - snow-covered rocks, ice, a shovel left out from the day before - and immediately start throwing. This kid didn’t need no stinkin’ fort.

I was the kid with good intentions. Once my mittens got wet, I traded in my war paint for a warm house and cup of hot chocolate. To my defense, corduroys and wet snow pants are a cruel test of endurance.

Inspire a memory with one of Van Otis’ holiday treats found at their Elm Street, Manchester retail store or online at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bloggin' About the Log

Our family loves the holiday season. We’re rooted in our traditions but also seem to be competitively searching for the next sure thing. For example, Aunt Stacey’s sweet potato casserole is now a Thanksgiving staple, replacing traditional squash and sweet potatoes. Conversely, Papa’s stuffing with bacon bits made only one unpopular appearance.

In my search for a namesake tradition, I look to Van Otis Chocolates. Pecan Rolls are the perfect delicious and affordable holiday treat. Offered in chocolate, vanilla, and pumpkin, these thick logs of creamy fudge are covered in a layer of crunchy pecans. The vanilla and chocolate live up to Van Otis’ standards of making the best quality fudge. The pumpkin is my personal favorite. The creamy pumpkin fudge has the perfect amount of pumpkin spice, which compliments well with the nutty exterior.

I highly suspect Thanksgiving guests may be asking for another slice of log rather than another slice of pie.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dip You'll Fall For

Here’s an easy recipe for a fall-inspired dip that’s great served with apples, Bosc pears, a spoon, or your index finger.

Cream cheese spread is recommended for easier dipping. Caramel dip can typically be found in the produce section, especially during apple harvest season.

Van Otis Almond Butter Crunch is toffee candy dipped in gourmet milk chocolate and rolled in almond bits. The candy comes in a traditional size when purchased in a box or at the retail candy counter. It is also available in a larger size from the prepackaged Temptations line.

The amount of candy used is really dependent on individual taste. You won’t ruin the recipe by adding too much Van Otis Almond Butter Crunch.

One 8 oz. container of cream cheese spread
1/2-3/4 cup of caramel dip
2-3 Van Otis Almond Butter Crunch candies, crushed
Apples and/or Bosc pears, sliced for dipping

Spread cream cheese in the bottom of a shallow serving dish. Cover the cream cheese layer by drizzling on approximately 1/2-3/4 cup of caramel dip. Sprinkle crushed Van Otis Almond Butter Crunch on top of the caramel layer.

Serve immediately with apples and/or Bosc pears for dipping.

Change is in the Air

Leaf colors aren’t the only things changing this fall. Van Otis announced some exciting new changes to their team and website that don’t require a rake or a plastic bag. Change is good.

In September, Van Otis Chocolates welcomed Chocolatier Jack Michael Pisciotta to the Van Otis family. Jack Michael comes to Van Otis with nine years of classical training and experience as a Swiss chocolatier at Andre’s Confiserie Suisse in Kansas City, including an apprenticeship under Master Swiss Chocolatier Marcel Bollier.

“We look forward to Jack Michael’s confectionary artistry and his capable influence in maintaining Van Otis as the premier destination for New Hampshire’s best chocolate,” Marc Amiet, owner.

Patrons were eligible to win a Jack Michael creation at Van Otis’ first annual Trick-or-Treat Night held on October 29th.

Pictures from the event can be found on Van Otis Chocolates’
Facebook page.

In October, the new Van Otis website and online store was launched at the same web address,

Altos Marketing Group, a Bedford, New Hampshire company, developed a website providing a rewarding online experience to Van Otis customers. Online customers now enjoy streamlined access to Van Otis products, information, specials, and current events. Improved navigation expedites ordering favorite Van Otis treats.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Espresso Yourself

I love my morning cup of coffee. I love the taste, smell, warmth, and boost of energy it supplies. But no matter how much advertisers try to convince me that coffee consumption is an all-day affair, I’m a morning drinker.

In a previous blog, “
Resolve”, I talked about my goal of better health in 2011, which includes finding foods that are reasonable and satisfying. I think I’ve found my new favorite afternoon snack that satisfies my need for chocolate and crunchy, and as a bonus, it provides another boost of energy to maintain productivity.

Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my.

Van Otis’ chocolate-coated espresso beans are a coffee lover’s dream. Espresso beans covered in Van Otis’ delicious, handmade chocolate is the perfect combination of sweet milk chocolate and the dark, roasted flavor of coffee. You can even get them with a cinnamon coating, which is my top pick.

Grand Petite

The signs of spring in New England surround us. Sights like robins flying in a snow squall make it an exciting, albeit confusing, time of year.

Van Otis seems to be following the trend of things that make you go hmmmm. In anticipation of Easter, Van Otis is offering Petite Eggs, which are deceivingly named as a small chocolate packing HUGE flavor.

These eggs come in a variety of flavors including nutty peanut butter, peanut butter meltaway, caramel marshmallow, vanilla cream, coconut cream, and vanilla butter cream. Most are available in milk or dark chocolate, and all live up to Van Otis’ handmade confection perfection.

My favorites - yes, that’s plural - are the peanut butter-filled Petite Eggs. Both varieties contain Van Otis’ creamy peanut butter center. The nutty peanut butter egg has a crunchy exterior with a combination of crushed almonds and milk chocolate, which blend with the peanut butter center. Encased by either a milk or dark chocolate shell, the peanut butter meltaway is aptly labeled and showcases the creamy center.

As with any seasonal Van Otis product, these are available for a limited time. So stop into
Van Otis’ retail store at 341 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire and stock up!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Treat for Two

As new pet owners, we had very little knowledge about life with a dog. We knew the basics: feed, groom, excrete, and talk to her every once in a while. Little did we know how much she would change our lives.

After a week with our rescue-adopted, 2-year-old toy poodle, we acknowledged a communication barrier. Our dog is actually quite intelligent, but we were inexperienced on picking up her nonverbal cues. This prompted the purchase of a “how to” book, which made our long list of what we didn’t know about dogs even longer. For example, I thought one of the perks of dog ownership was never having to bend over to pick up dropped food again. I secretly hoped that my days of vacuuming were over. But when we read the chapter on nutrition, the list of food toxins was startling.
• Chocolate is toxic and dangerous for dogs.

• Raisins and grapes are poisonous to dogs.

• Onions have the ability to cause anemia so all onion products should be avoided to be safe.
• Macadamia nuts and walnuts contain toxins.
• Potatoes themselves are fine but the green parts are toxic and dangerous.

• Salt in large amounts may cause kidney issues.

We’ve come a long way in a year of dog ownership and are more thoughtful about our pet’s health and nutrition. We have also discovered that, like most pets, our dog is motivated and rewarded with special treats.

Van Otis offers Kanine Kookies in a variety of flavors. These bone-shaped, decoratively dipped cookies contain healthy ingredients such as oats, flax, and oat bran. The next time you stop into Van Otis’ Elm Street retail store, remember that you’re not the only one who could benefit from a treat.

Monday, January 3, 2011


My 2011 New Year’s resolution is to eat more of Van Otis’s milk or dark chocolate coconut, espresso, maple walnut, and raspberry creams, milk chocolate peanut butter truffles, Swiss fudge, hard candies, and gummie bears. I know you’ve come to expect witty humor at the beginning of my blogs, but this is no joke.

My 13-year old and I were discussing New Year’s resolutions. He asked why people make commitments only once a year and then fail at fulfilling them.

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.” - Author Unknown

After gaining some time to ponder this by saying, “Go ask your father,” I realized that we tend to chose resolutions of abstinence. I will go without, I will have less, I will no longer.

In an effort to improve my health in 2011 and make it an attainable goal, I’ve decided to refocus on what I can and will eat, rather than on what I’ll do without.

Van Otis offers numerous products that are sugar-free, including the list above. Their sugar-free treats are all the things you’d expect from a creamy, crunchy, sweet, tasty confection, and they’re a perfect “can have” for any reduced-calorie plan.

Happy New Rears!

A week ago, I actually caught myself strategically thinking, “If I eat this entire tin of Christmas cookies now, they’ll no longer be a temptation.” I’m one smart cookie. Pun intended.

Many of us go from overeating during the holidays to extreme dieting beginning in early January. During the month of December, you couldn’t find an empty spot in the workplace refrigerator without shoving aside a tray of finger rolls. Now the lunch room is full of yogurt, tossed salads, and a lot of commiserating coworkers.

Healthy people know that bouncing from one extreme to the other is no way to maintain consistent health and weight. It’s important to find satisfying treats that will stave off the need to go overboard.

Van Otis Chocolates offers an all natural line of gourmet chocolate bars including milk, Cambra dark (72% cocoa), white, blueberry dark, blueberry milk, cranberry almond milk, cranberry almond dark, hazelnut milk, and hazelnut dark. I can attest that the blueberry milk chocolate bar is delicious and since it’s all natural, it doesn’t have the acidic bite that blueberry-flavored foods tend to have.

The all natural trail mix bark in milk or dark chocolate, all natural bark in milk or dark chocolate, milk chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, and mixed nuts or unsalted cashews are other wonderfully satisfying choices.