Ditch the Packets and Make a Great Cup of Hot Cocoa

487390253

487390253

Hot chocolate with foam in two mugs

Hot chocolate with foam in two mugs

Sipping a mug of hot chocolate after sledding and snowman building is one of the great joys of the season. But an envelope of powdered hot chocolate zapped in the microwave isn’t what we’re talking about. Sure the instant version is simple, but the list of ingredients generally includes hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, artificial flavors, preservatives, and mono- and diglycerides — none of which are necessary to make a great-tasting hot chocolate.

Real cocoa powder contains copper, potassium and iron. In addition, it’s rich in fiber, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine, which helps manage stress. So ditch the packets and try these from-scratch versions with festive peppermint, healing ginger and soothing cardamom.

Cocoa powder on a spoon

Cocoa powder on a spoon

Basic Classic Cocoa

Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch processed)

Pinch salt

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons hot water

1 cup reduced-fat milk

2 teaspoons sugar, agave or maple syrup

Directions:

Microwave: In a microwave-safe mug, combine cocoa, salt and vanilla. Add 2 tablespoons hot water and combine until it forms a paste. Add the milk, leaving an inch from the rim. Microwave on high for 1 minute, being careful the milk does not boil over. Stir in sweetener and serve.

Stovetop: Heat milk, salt, vanilla and sugar in a small saucepan over medium to low temperature until scalding. Watch the milk so that it does not reach a boil. Combine cocoa and water in a mug and carefully add hot milk. Stir until blended.

Healing additions:

157105151

157105151

Peppermint in closeup

Photo by: Anton Ignatenco

Anton Ignatenco

Peppermint in closeup

Peppermint

Mint is a therapeutic herb believed to alleviate colic and digestive, gall bladder and stomach problems. The truth is, only peppermint, which is 92 percent menthol, has these medicinal properties. Spearmint does not contain menthol and offers no digestive benefits. Before adding cocoa, steep fresh peppermint leaves in the hot milk. Remove after 10 minutes and pour according to directions.

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153827056

Photo by: Maksym Khytra ©Maksym Khytra

Maksym Khytra, Maksym Khytra

Cinnamon and Cardamom

The Aztecs used spices in their chocolatl, and today traditional Mexican hot chocolate has a spicy kick. Cinnamon may soothe digestive problems and is considered an antispasmodic and antiseptic. Cardamom offers the same digestive benefits and acts to decrease gas. Sprinkle in cinnamon and cardamom to your liking.

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113475809

Ginger root

Photo by: Elena Elisseeva

Elena Elisseeva

Ginger root

Ginger

Peel fresh ginger and add a few slices to hot milk, then steep for 10 minutes. Remove from milk before adding to cocoa mixture. Not only will you get a spicy kick, but the ginger’s qualities can reduce fever, gas and pain, and aid in digestion. It’s also believed ginger helps combat winter’s many coughs and colds.

Related Links:

Spirited Desserts Across the Country

6 Things You Can Make with Hot Cocoa Mix

Bobby Flay's Holiday Drinks

Slow-Cooker Holiday Party Recipes

Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.

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