#12DaysofHygge – Day 6: Stove Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate + My Favourite Vancouver Hot Chocolate Spots!

Hot chocolate or hot cocoa. However you call it, it’s the perfect winter treat when you’re out and about, or when you’re having an evening in. It is a very hygge beverage in my humble opinion.

I used to be indifferent to this marvelous hot beverage. Likely because I’d only ever had it as the powdered version that gets mixed boiled water. But then I had a an espresso cup sized serving in Naples back in 2011. It was essentially just melted dark chocolate, and it was heaven. I asked the barrista if there was milk in it, and he said “No latte. signorina. No latte.”

Since then, hot chocolate has been my jam, and every now and then, I like to make it from scratch on the stove. I add almond ‘latte’ to mine otherwise I would be incredibly hyper, but every time I make it, I smile thinking of that little cup of melted chocolate.

The first time I made my own cocoa, I was staying in a beautiful house by the beach on Salt Spring Island. I’ll get around to writing about SSI at some point, but I digress. Hot chocolate is actually quite simple to make on the stove. After a couple of years, I think I’ve  finally found an ingredients combination that is exactly to my liking and  similar to my favourite Blenz almond milk dark hot chocolate!) Click here to jump to the recipe.

Making myself a hot chocolate obviously isn’t always possible, so when I am out and about, these are my Vancouver go-to’s for a tasty cocoa to-go (or enjoy in the cafe):

Blenz Coffee (Various Locations)

When I came back from my aforementioned trip to Naples I was obsessed with finding a good hot chocolate in Vancouver. It didn’t need to be solely melted dark chocolate, but it needed to have actual chocolate in it. I honestly wouldn’t have expected a chain to have my favourite hot chocolate, but Blenz does, indeed. And they are consistent. My extra almond milk dark hot chocolate is a mood balancer, treat, something to keep me warm, or all of the above. I also love that the baristas do a little bit of latte art to finish it of and that Blenz is a local chain.

Mink Hot Chocolate & Coffee

Mink’s hot chocolates are very gourmet, and very tasty. I love going there because they have a variety of options, as well as their own brand of chocolates (also available online for purchase). They aren’t in my immediate vicinity of  home or work, so it’s always a nice treat to go here.

Hot Chocolate Fest (Jan 20 Feb 14, 2018)

And if you really want to get your hot chocolate on in Vancouver, Hot Chocolate Fest is coming back in January! More details on participating merchants can be found here. I like to go to at least one new merchant shop every year to try their delicious creations!


Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

If you’re feeling homey, or want to inject a little hygge into your day, here is my Almond Milk Hot Chocolate recipe!

Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This is a slightly decadent treat for those winter nights where you want to just snuggle up with your partner to watch a movie or to settle in with a good book.


  • 3 cups almond milk
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sweetener of choice (I use 2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla, peppermint or almond extract (optional)


  1. Heat the almond milk in a small sauce pan on Medium-High heat for approximately 5 minutes
  2. When milk is hot and starting to steam, remove pan from heat
  3. Whisk in your cocoa powder, chocolate chips, sweetener, and optional extract
  4. Continue to whisk until the chocolate chips are fully melted, and everything looks frothy and smooth
  5. Pour into mugs and enjoy!

Serves 2 in large mugs or 4 in regular mugs. Cut recipe in half for 2 regular size mug servings.

Like my tea, I take my hot chocolate ‘black’, but cocoa does look a bit prettier and taste fabulous with a whipped cream (like these great almond milk options, or this coconut milk option by one of my favourite recipe mavens, Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows!)

I haven’t tried this recipe with dairy milk or coconut milk yet, but that will be a Christmas holidays adventure so I can find an option that the Brit enjoys. The almond milk was met with some indifference. 😉

“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.”

~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Holiday Season Survival and No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

We are now full on into the holiday season, which means shopping, parties, shortbread, and, let’s face it, feeling a bit like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This is not a feeling exclusive to Christmas time, but it’s certainly amplified by this point in December. Unexpected guests, forgetting presents, hopping from event to event (I had three last Thursday!).

How to survive the most wonderful time of the year – and, really, anything that comes your way? Three key things to remember:


Deep breath before you have people over; deep breath when you drop something or the soufflé doesn’t come out right or that annoying person just won’t shut up; deep breath after. Oxygen is your friend. So is wine.

Also, make sure you take some time for you, whether that’s when you’re getting ready for a party, going to yoga, or if you escape to go have a mani so you can have said wine and read a magazine!


Lists: Make them. All smartphones have a notes app. Use it. It is your friend.


  • If you see something earlier in the year that would make a good present for whoever is on your list, buy it.
  • Tagging on to the above, have a clear storage bin that you can place the things you buy throughout the year. Label the item with a post-it or wrap and tag it right away. (This saved me loads of time this year.)
  • Online shopping is amazing. Get it all done in one go. There’s still time on most sites to get everything before Christmas! Check out Amazon’s great deals and sign up for a FREE (#GetThrifty!) Amazon Prime trial membership so you can get those gifts (pre-wrapped!) within two days. Boom. (This saved me a lot of hassle this year! Click here to save yourself some shopping grief.)
  • Have twelvety parties to go to? Buy a case (or two) of decent host/hostess gift wine and load up on the pretty wine bags from the Dollar Store. This also makes a good emergency gift for the accidentally forgotten or a Secret Santa gift exchange. If you buy by the case, there is usually a discount involved. Artisan candles are also a nice hostess gift.
  • When all else fails, buy a goat! (Or two or three!) Or make a generous donation to a near and dear charity. And then write all your Christmas cards with a note telling your gift list that you made this donation on their behalf.

Hosting Parties/Dinners:

  • Make as much of your dishes in advance as you can. Prep your appies/canapes, make cookies or your dough the night before.
  • Jamie Oliver has a great Christmas dinner step-by-step with night before and day of tips.
  • Keep it simple. Tying in with making ahead, below is a great no-bake chocolate cheesecake recipe.
  • If you can, know the allergies and dietary restrictions of your guests. This is helpful for the grocery shopping trip(s).
  • Bulk buy. Hello, Costco. (Which, really, could be your one-stop shop for party food and gifts.)


The art of improvisation and the ability to get creative in a crisis (or “crisis”) is, in my opinion, a bit underrated. Being resourceful is the key survival skill in any situation. Experience, breathing and prep help with this, but the most important thing is to not freak out when things go awry.

I was recently house and dog sitting (check out the handsome #YaletownCharlie on my Instagram) and was getting ready to make dessert for a little dinner party with another couple. The Brit was making Sheperd’s Pie (yum!) and my job was cheesecake. Easy, right?

The thing about housesitting is that no matter how nice the kitchen, you don’t have your things. While I checked if there was was a springform pan – nein (baked cheesecake no longer an option), I hadn’t checked for a pie plate that the no-bake recipe called for. Also, a big nein. At this point, we had already been to the grocery store; and I was not leaving the house again as it was monsooning with rain outside. And so, the no-bake cheesecake went into a greased stainless steel frying pan. I was ridiculously proud of myself and it looked kinda neat.

So, adding to the Chocolate Decadence posts, here is an easy-peasy no-bake chocolate cheesecake (as adapted from some of my favourite chocolate related recipes):

City Girl No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

  • Servings: 10-12 small slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/4 cups Oreo Baking Crumbs*
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted*
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I use Kraft BAKER’s Chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

*NOTE: Save time with a prepared 9-inch (6 oz.) chocolate crumb crust 


  • Mix crumbs and melted butter; press onto bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie plate. (OR a stainless steel frying pan  😉 )
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave with the whipping cream for two minutes, taking out to stir halfway through. Use a fork to smooth out when done.
  • Beat the cream cheese, brown sugar,  milk and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl on high speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add melted chocolate; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add the mix in into crust. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm. Can be refrigerated overnight.
  • Optional: Top with whipped cream, if desired.



“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.”

~ Mary Kay Ash

Tokyo – Asakusa Market and Temple

I’m finally getting photos organized from our Japan trip. Finally.

Day 3 got off to a lazy start. There wasn’t really a plan aside from being at a certain place for dinner that night. We were originally going to go the National Museum of Japanese History, but it’s a couple hours away from the apartment. By the time we got ourselves together with a plan, it was later than we thought… Oops. 🙂

So the museum was tabled to later in the week and we got on the subway to go across the city to Asakusa for a visit to Sensoji Temple (also called Asakusa Kannon Temple), and nearby Skytree Tower. The first thing I saw while walking from the station to temple was this adorable Buddha.

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To get to the temple, you first go through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), which is apparently the symbol of Asakua and the entire city of Tokyo. The gate is very grand (as are most temple entrances), and very bright. Next is a sojourn through the 200 metre long Nakamise market, and there is no hardship there. Lots of typical tourist shops run along the (fake, but very pretty) cherry blossom framed main drag with some gems wedged in between. Tchotchkes, postcards, chopsticks, kimonos. Whatever your heart’s desire of Japanese stuff and things.




Turn down one of the many alleys and all you need to do is follow your nose to find a snack – food shops galore. In case you didn’t know, waffles smell like heaven on a brisk – read: COLD – sunny day. The specialty shops tend to be down the alleys as well; like the knife maker (forger?) or rather, craftsman’s shop.


We browsed and made note of souvenirs and gifts we might buy (as we were going to Kyoto the next day, we didn’t want to buy anything right away). I wanted to buy everything, but the Libra in me and my budget demanded that I be patient. Since we went to markets in three towns, I am glad we waited and so we could make informed purchases.

My favourite part of the market, was, of course, food related. Going back to my waffles comment, we had these wonderful chocolate filled, fish-shaped waffle cake things that I think are called Ningyoyaki. One word: YUM. They were fresh and warm when we bought them, and the chocolate was that wonderful gooey, but not messy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that I love, love, LOVE. Like a chocolate lava cake. I’ve realized that as much as I love to bake, I don’t tend to eat much of the fruits of my labour, partly because I don’t really have a big sweet tooth. (I find dark chocolate more on the savoury side.) I also don’t tend to eat anything like a chocolate stuffed waffles unless I’m on vacation or a special occasion. I think I appreciate these treats more because they are just that: treats. And it was dark chocolate, so really, I was in love before I tasted it!

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The temple itself is, like much of Japanese architecture, very regal and intricate in detail. It is very beautiful place of Buddhist religion. Legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple. (Excerpt from http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3001.html)

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(Because it was one of the first things I noticed about the exterior of the building, I’m going to address the swastika at the top of the building in this photo. The fact is that swastika is a Sanskrit word and is one of the oldest symbols on Earth which can be found in all religions (particularly Buddhism) and traditions, on all continents. It represents good things. A certain individual chose it as a symbol for what is one of the greatest shames of the 20th century; therefore giving it a negative connotation. But really, it’s a symbol of prosperity and good.)

IMG_5671Sensoji Temple seems to be a special place for Matt and Dori, as Matt went off on his own for a bit. I lit a candle for Dori and all of my guardian angels. I love that the act of lighting a candle for someone or something seems to be a universal act across places of worship.

After the temple, we took the train to Tokyo Skytree, which I was told is the second tallest building in the world. It is a broadcasting tower, as well as restaurant and shopping mecca as well as a tourist observation deck. It is 2,080 feet tall! We did not go up the tower as we didn’t have time, but I can only imagine that the view is spectacular.


Chocolate seemed to be the food theme for the day (it was also dessert at dinner that night) because we stopped to have a snack and a much needed hot beverage at a place at Skytree called 100% Chocolate Café. Does that not sound like heaven?! The ceiling even looks like a bar of my baking chocolate. (My mouth is watering looking at the picture…)

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I am very picky about my hot chocolate, but I was very impressed by what I was served. Officially in my top three hot chocolates I’ve ever had. Napoli is still in first (I don’t think I’ve written about it, but it was life-altering), but this came a close second!

In charmingly Japanese fashion, the chocolate in the café is organized in the most orderly way with a number system. There are 56 kinds of chocolate from around the world, each with a number. And you can buy a bar of each one if you like. Yes, please!

IMG_5686 IMG_5685And on that savoury note, there is a brownie in the fridge calling my name. I made a batch last night and they go very nicely with a cup of loose leaf peppermint tea. Good night!


“Spicy” Chocolate Brownies

I haven’t blogged in a while. In fact, I didn’t blog at all in April. I just didn’t have the mental capacity. Life and work have been quite busy and in my day job, I am in front of a computer screen all day. The last thing I wanted to do is get home and open up my laptop. When your outlet becomes a chore, it’s time to take a break. But it’s quieted down a bit and I’m feeling refreshed. (Which may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’ve been getting my butt out of bed slightly earlier so I can do an awesome workout DVD almost every day. Morning endorphins are an amazing thing.)

Today is Cinqo de Mayo, and when I think of that, I think about Mexican food (duh) and bright colours. And, chocolate. With chocolate in mind, I share with you a brownie recipe that I am really pleased with. Brownies!


“Spicy” Chocolate Brownies

Yield: 16 large or 25 small squares


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces (8 squares) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ancho chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil an 8-inch square baking pan or glass casserole dish.
  • Line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on 2 sides. Set aside.
  • Blend flour, salt, cinnamon, and acho chili in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Melt chocolate and butter until smooth in a double boiler or bowl set on a saucepan of simmering water. Remove bowl from heat and allow to cool until room temperature. (If you are short of time, microwave on high for approximately one minute until melted and whiskable in a microwave safe container.)
  • Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Whisk eggs into mixture, one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Gently fold in flour blended dry ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing out with a spatula. Bake 40 to 45 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached). Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Run a knife or spatula around the edges of the pan. Using the parchment edges, lift brownies out of pan and onto the rack. Transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 or 25 squares, depending on preference.


I recently found a website for recipe management and meal planning called Pepperplate.com. You can upload or “pin” recipes from websites, create your own, make dinner party menus, and meal plan. Eventually, I hope to get all my recipes in there so I can get rd of my overstuffed recipe binder. It’s pretty neat, there’s an option to share your recipes if you want to, and it’s FREE. If you want to try it out, click here to create a profile and add the “spicy” brownies recipe to your recipe box. (If only I got paid to make recommendations like this. Alas, I don’t but I still recommend the site. 😉 )

It’s Game 3 tonight and Sean and I are heading into town to have dinner and watch the game at a restaurant/bar. I’m hoping the Canucks can pull out a win (and then another, and then two more to win the series). We are 0-2 but I am eternally hopeful that we will win the series against San Jose. We are a much better team.

Go Canucks, go!

Valentine’s Day Goat Cheese Icing

As most know, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and the world exploded with chocolate, cinnamon hearts, and red and pink coloured everything. As a corporate event planner, I am very spoiled on days like this – I got cookies, candy, you name it, from vendors and venues. All shared with my office mates and thoroughly enjoyed. My Valentine’s gift was the wonderful treat of having Sean home on a special day. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because of work schedules, so I was so happy he had the night off. It was our five year “together” anniversary on the 13th and we did a combo celebration on the 14th with a dinner of perfectly seared (courtesy of Sean) ahi tuna burgers and a decadent flourless chocolate cake – also made last year. Might be a new tradition… 🙂

photo 1

The burgers are something for another post (particularly since I’ve finally perfected my red pepper relish and am so excited to share the recipe) – ahi tuna deserves to be mentioned on it’s own – but the new addition to the flourless chocolate cake was a to-die-for goat cheese (!) icing, or frosting, courtesy of Saveur Magazine. (Saveur is a wonderful actual and online magazine that has tons of recipes that I love poring over when the email land in my inbox. I highly recommend subscribing! The icing is from a recipe that was posted with intriguing chocolate cupcakes made with coffee. Haven’t tried those yet, but it’s officially on the list!)

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Now, if you know me, you know I love food. Love, love love. I appreciate a good meal and it’s ingredients, individual and combined. If you have eaten at our house or know me super well, you know that I LOVE goat cheese. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. And so how fitting that I made this AMAZING icing on Valentine’s Day.

When I Instagramed the amazingness, I got quite the response from friends, so for my first blog post in quite some time, I re-introduce everyone to flourless chocolate cake and introduce goat cheese icing. YUM. (Sean actually put more icing on his piece.)

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Goat Cheese Icing

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print



  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet/semi-sweet dark chocolate (equates to 4 squares of Bakers chocolate)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (I have to admit that I don’t always have unsalted butter on hand and the cake turns out just fine)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Icing: Adapted from Saveur.com

  • 4oz cream cheese (I use light cream cheese)
  • 3oz plain goat cheese
  • 1.5 cups of icing/confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Food colouring (optional)



  • Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. (Optional: Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.)
  • Chop chocolate into small pieces.
  • In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.
  • Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.
  • Add eggs and whisk well.
  • Sift (or be a rebel like me and just pour it in) 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
  • Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust.
  • While cake is in the oven, make your icing. See below.
  • Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.


  • Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and goat cheese together until fluffy.
  • Add the confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until a creamy consistency is reached. Add vanilla, mix at low speed.
  • If desired, add food colouring until to create your ideal shade of icing.
  • Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Drizzle, spread, heap – apply as little or as much icing as you want to the cake. Cut, and enjoy the wonderful decadence!

This icing is very rich and very different in texture than buttercream frosting. But equally as good, if not better.

Cake keeps, after being cooled, completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.

We were given an abundance of wine over the Christmas holidays and the one we chose to open last night for Valentine’s Day dinner was a Stag’s Hollow 2009 The Heritage Black red blend from the Okanagan that my cousin, Jason, gave us. it was divine. And with this dessert, it was just beyond. I need to look up where I can buy a case.

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The empty bottle of one of the best red I have tried in a while. A BC wine no less!

Anyhow, so that is goat cheese icing (where have you been all my life??) – enjoy!

Back to the hockey game which has gone a bit awry…

Chocolate Decadence – Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Pie

So it’s day 2 of OHAC, and I am desperately missing one thing: dark chocolate. It’s my favourite pick me up snack and I can’t have it. (On the upside, I went to a really, really great yoga class tonight and while it wasn’t chocolate, it made a bit of a frantic day much better.) Dark chocolate is good for you but it has caffeine and dairy. I could turn to carob, but guess what? It has soy in it and that is also a no-no on OHAC. Alas…

And so I present to you the last chocolate dessert baked and consumed pre-cleanse – my absolute favourite and fail safe thing to make: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Pie (as adapted from Kraft.ca). I got to enjoy one big piece of this piece of this dessert on Sunday. It was delicious. And now I live vicariously through Sean, who gets to finish the rest of it… It’s excruciating to watch, but worth it for my health.




  • 1 pkg. (8 squares) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped or not
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tbsp. raspberry jam, divided (2 tbsp, 4 tbsp – or 1/4 cup)
  • 1-1/4 cups or OREO cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp. water


Lightly butter or grease a 9″ pie plate. Melt butter in a microwave safe measuring cup. Pour over cookie crumbs in pie dish and mix together with a fork.

Use the back of a large spoon to pack and smooth the mixture across the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Set aside.

Add chocolate squares and whipping cream to a microwave safe bowl or large glass measuring cup. Microwave for 2 minutes on HIGH.

Use a large fork or small whisk to gently mix the cream and chocolate into a dark cocoa-like mixture.

Add 2 tbsp of raspberry jam and use the fork or small whisk to mix until jam is melted into the mixture.

Pour mixture over crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (Super important – it needs time to set!)

After the setting period, arrange raspberries as desired. Microwave 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) of raspberry jam with 1 tbsp of water. Mix well and brush over raspberries.

Refrigerate for at least one more hour. Serve with a good red wine, dark coffee, or a tea of choice.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy-Medium
  • Print


  • 1 pkg. (8 squares) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped or not
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tbsp. raspberry jam, divided (2 tbsp, 4 tbsp – or 1/4 cup)
  • 1-1/4 cups or OREO cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp. water


  1. Lightly butter or grease a 9″ pie plate. Melt butter in a microwave safe measuring cup. Pour over cookie crumbs in pie dish and mix together with a fork.
  2. Use the back of a large spoon to pack and smooth the mixture across the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Set aside.
  3. Add chocolate squares and whipping cream to a microwave safe bowl or large glass measuring cup. Microwave for 2 minutes on HIGH.
  4. Use a large fork or small whisk to gently mix the cream and chocolate into a dark cocoa-like mixture.
  5. Add 2 tbsp of raspberry jam and use the fork or small whisk to mix until jam is melted into the mixture.
  6. Pour mixture over crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (Super important – it needs time to set!)
  7. After the setting period, arrange raspberries as desired. Microwave 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) of raspberry jam with 1 tbsp of water. Mix well and brush over raspberries.
  8. Refrigerate for at least one more hour. Serve with a good red wine, dark coffee, or a tea of choice.