My kids love hot cocoa. Pretty sure EVERY kid loves hot cocoa, at least in the Northern United States. But most of what I can find here in Northeast Connecticut is Swiss Miss or some other knock off brand that’s like 80% sugar and preservatives. Sure, it tastes good, but enough of it will probably turn you diabetic.
I know this isn’t a food blog, and I mostly talk about herbs. Guess what? Cacao is a healthy plant if you eat it right! It contains antioxidants and this lovely thing called phenethylamine, which triggers the feel-good center of the brain. So is cayenne pepper, a warming herb (much desired on cold snowy days!) I am aware that most Mexican hot cocoas have chili powder in them rather than cayenne, but I can’t find chili powder that doesn’t also contain salt for some reason, so I use a bit of cayenne.
As per usual, I didn’t think this would make a good blog subject until AFTER I had already made it, so my packages are all open and I don’t have steps of the process, nor did I EXACTLY measure ingredients out. I hardly ever do… so bear with me.
Instead of buying the cheap prepackaged cocoa packets from the store, I mix my own hot cocoa. My kids, thankfully, actually PREFER mine (when their friends aren’t looking,) so I get them to eat a tad healthier on my time.
I mix about 3/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, a heaping 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar (you can use a healthier sugar like turbinado if you want; I just didn’t have any in my cupboard today,) a dash of cayenne powder (about 1/4 tsp at the most) and 3/4 of a bar of dark chocolate all chopped up. Just whisk this all together and pour into a jar with a lid. When you want cocoa, you can use either hot milk or hot water. Most of the time, we put a big scoop of cocoa mix into the mug, pour a few tablespoons worth of heavy cream on top, and then just fill the rest of the cup with boiling water. Mixing with a spoon is critical; marshmallows are optional. Note: If you taste it and think it needs to be sweeter, just add a little more sugar to your jar and give it a good shake.
Jumping up on my soap box for a moment: I bought this chocolate bar at Big Y on sale for $3. Yes, it’s more expensive than a Hershey bar, but it’s much higher quality, fair trade, and sustainably sourced. That means no small children were kidnapped and forced to work on plantations to produce the beans, nor was some poor farmer forced to work and feed his family on ten cents a week just so we could eat cheap candy. I do not buy products made with what we refer to as “slavery chocolate.” I admit, the white sugar trade isn’t a heck of a lot better, but I think the fact that their crimes were outed and made more visible long ago has forced the industry to treat its laborers just a little better in modern times.
The first thing you learn when becoming an Herbalist is that what you put into your body matters more than anything else. I am a huge advocate for eating healthfully, and keeping processed foods out of your diet as much as possible. I understand the line of “processed” is blurred here, considering the cacao powder I bought is processed from cocoa beans. But if you choose to buy INGREDIENTS rather than ready-made foods more often than not, your stomach (and whole body!) will thank you.
One final note: a full jar of this mix lasts us close to a year, but only because I don’t let my kids have hot cocoa all the damn time. This has been my TED talk… now go play in the snow and drink some hot cocoa when you’re done!