Enter February - Heart Health Month and the time to give valentines to the ones you love. While chocolate is popular this time of year, cocoa has its merits, too. Hot chocolate, also known as cocoa, is a heated beverage created with cocoa powder, milk, and sometimes other ingredients including sugar, spices, and shaved chocolate.
Throughout the years around the lake, I've enjoyed hot chocolate in many forms. I've gone through the phase of buying the boxes of hot chocolate and water mixes. Then, there was the Hershey's chocolate syrup poured into low-fat milk, too. I've gotten it on the cheap out of a vending machine and paid the price at Starbucks.
One winter, I often indulged in organic chocolate milk and heated it up for a quick and soothing hot cocoa fix. It comforted me during the cold, snowy days in Tahoe but also as I cuddled up with my two Brittanys and cat by the fire in the old rock fireplace while watching the charming film Chocolat. Hot chocolate makes a statement with more than one character in the movie. But in real life, I favored the organic chocolate milk but I can't find it any longer at the store.
Last week I received hot cocoa powder from a chocolate gourmet company. This powder is both organic and Fair Trade Certified, so it made me feel like I was on the right track of being a real granola girl.
2 cups organic lowfat milk
1/3 cup white sugar (or honey)
2 tablespoons chocolate mix
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ounce chocolate chips (milk or dark)
Whipped cream (real or store bought)
Cinnamon or chocolate shavings (garnish)
In a pan, heat milk until the liquid starts to steam. Whisk in sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla until smooth. Add chocolate till it melts. Pour into mugs. Top with whipping cream and cinnamon or chocolate shavings.
I poured the steaming sweet, hot cocoa into a large white mug. The dollop of whipped cream (I whipped up the real stuff) and spice gave this beverage an extra oomph.
The beverage brought me back in time to when I was kid. Hot chocolate made with Hershey's Cocoa powder played a role in our household. On chilly winter days, my mother would make this hearty beverage topped with miniature marshmallows and served in large copper mugs. It was a treat to savor this warming beverage while sitting by the fireplace in our family room and watching movies on television complete with our playful spotted pooch, Casey. Hot chocolate gave me fond memories that are comforting, and I continued to include the wholesome tradition in my life through the years, whether it was with family, friends or solo.
This week, on the South Shore, DIY hot cocoa with a twist of Mother Nature is as good as it gets. Once I put this Hot Chocolate recipe to work, I thought, "I may never go back." I got a different taste of hot cocoa and I like it.
Motto: Taking the extra time to make a healthful hot beverage made with TLC will warm you up and give you the gift of karma and will create new memories.
A special thanks to Lake Champlain Chocolates.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com.