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Fun Food Saturday: Hot Chocolate

It’s COLD outside (no, really – here in Southern California it’s hovering in the mid-50s, which is almost unbearable for us thin-skinned folk) and that means it’s time to warm up with some good old-fashioned hot chocolate.

Of course it’s one of the more sugary drinks – it helps if you consider it a dessert – but if you make your own you’ve got an immediate leg up over any of the packaged mixes. Also worth noting: We understand that technically it’s called hot cocoa if you use cocoa powder to make it (it’s only truly hot chocolate if you use melted chocolate) but we’re going to go ahead and just call it hot chocolate because it’s the term that our kids know best.

For this week we decided to try some fun variations on the theme. We started with the basic recipe from the back of the cocoa container: Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa powder in a saucepan. Add four cups of milk and stir while heating over moderate heat until all of the powder is dissolved and the cocoa is hot but not boiling. That’ll give you a nice, steaming pot of hot chocolate.

Then (with some inspiration from this list of hot chocolate recipes from The Nibble) we tried a few different variations:

Cinna-cocoa: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the sugar and cocoa mixture, then add milk and heat. Garnish each mug with a cinnamon stick if you like.

Cocoa-mint: Have your kids crush a candy cane with a small hammer. Then stir the candy cane crumbs in to the hot mixture so that they mostly dissolve. Optional: Serve each mug with a candy cane stick.

Choco-orange: Grate the rind from one large orange and sprinkle some orange rind on top of each serving. Then take a wedge of orange and rub it around the rim of the mug to give each sip an extra orange flavor.

For the next three varieties, an immersion blender can be your very best friend. (We were inspired by this peanut butter hot chocolate recipe from Babble’s Family Kitchen.) For the simplest approach, pour a serving into a large mug or measuring cup, and mix in the flavoring with an immersion blender to get a custom-mixed cup of your favorite flavor. We tried a few ideas and liked these best:

Choco-banana: For an 8-ounce serving, put four slices of banana in the mug or measuring cup, then blend with an immersion blender.

Choco-nutty: For an 8-ounce serving, put one heaping teaspoon of peanut butter in the mug or measuring cup, then blend with an immersion blender.

Choco-raspberry: For an 8-ounce serving, put six raspberries in the mug or measuring cup, then blend with an immersion blender.

Get the picture? After our taste test was complete, the kids voted the candy cane/mint flavor as their favorite, while the grownups primarily preferred the banana.

This little experiment also inspired our 7-year-old to propose making grape hot chocolate, but we couldn’t quite figure out how to deal with the grape skins. Still, it got his wheels turning, and that made the whole exercise worthwhile for us.

Fun Food Saturday: Because food should be fun.

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