Sunday, January 9, 2011

Comfort Me with Cocoa

 Goodness knows there’s plenty to be anxious about at the beginning of a new year. An entire 12 months of who-knows-what can be quite intimidating in this crazy global village of ours, and there may even be a lot to be downright afraid of if we’re not careful. For instance, I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little terrified of House Speaker John Boehner’s gigantic new gavel, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.

What’s making me particularly nervous these days, however, is that I’ve been traveling, visiting, eating in restaurants (too much fast food as well as some really good meals in great casual restaurants) and being fed by generous and talented hosts and hostesses. In short, in dealing with the enforced schedule changes of the holiday season, I haven’t been able to try new recipes or put together old favorites to share or to really even do much cooking at all. This really puts me off my game, makes me feel uneasy, and, worst of all, leaves me with nothing to post on The Messy Apron.

I know I’ll get back into the swing and will soon have something delicious and seasonal to post, such as an appropriately light and high-WFQ* dish to combat the effects of what I’m beginning to think of as C4 (Community Calories Consumed in the name of Christmas). Until then, however, I’ve got to get a grip and get organized, preferably with a soothing cup of steamy cocoa by my side. Everything seems to calm down a bit when warm milk is involved, and I probably don’t have to tell you about the mood magic that lightly sweetened chocolate can perform.

There are many ways to produce a cup of hot cocoa, even excluding the instant packets. I prefer a super-simple formula of one cup of milk, one tablespoon of sugar and one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder. I typically use skim or 2% low fat milk, because those are what I usually have on hand, and I find that the rich flavor of whole milk can cancel out some of the chocolate flavor. I’ve been using an organic, fair-trade cocoa powder from Equal Exchange, but have also used other brands with good results. It stands to reason that the better the quality of the cocoa, the better the hot cocoa.

Usually, I use a contraption called a Cocoa-Latte, marketed by Back to Basics brand. It’s basically a heated blender that makes frothy cocoa and other hot drinks. This thing takes absolutely all of what little work there ever was out of making a cup of hot cocoa from scratch, but you can quite easily make cocoa on the stove, too. If you have an immersion blender, you can even make a frothier drink, whose tiny network of bubbles makes a nice little raft for floating a layer of whipped cream or marshmallows. You know you want whipped cream or marshmallows.

So here’s to a calm and lucky new year to you all.  Just make yourself a warming cup of cocoa on these cold nights to get you started, and perhaps drink it in your winter-celebrating (or eschewing) mug if you have one.  It may be past the season to toast you with champagne, so forgive me if I take a step back and a deep breath, and toast you with a comforting cup of soothing, chocolaty love instead.

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Hot Cocoa

1 cup milk (I prefer skim or 2% milk)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon (heaping if desired) unsweetened cocoa powder
whipped cream or marshmallows (optional)

1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot and beginning to steam, but not to boiling. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

2. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar and cocoa. Whisk to blend completely. To make a frothier drink, blend with an immersion blender for 15-30 seconds. Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired (you know you want to).


Combine the whole lot in a Cocoa-Latte or similar appliance and mix and heat following manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes one serving. Recipe is easily doubled (at least).

Another recipe like this one: Mulled Apple Cider

One year ago: Red Cabbage Slaw with Apples and Cranberries

1 comment:

  1. I just made this with almond milk, and it's great! I just replaced the milk with vanilla-flavored almond milk (Silk brand)and added 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I couldn't resist.)Since the vanilla-flavored almond milk I had is fairly sweet, I didn't use any sugar. The resulting drink is plenty, but not very, sweet. You could add sugar if you like it sweeter.

    I had never heated almond milk, but had seen it done in other recipes, so thought I'd try it. This was a great success...and a new vegan recipe!