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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Recipe for Happiness: Chocolate Covered Gratitude

The best thing about the winter holidays might just be hot chocolate! Hot chocolate makes everyone feel good! Thick, creamy, aromatic, hot chocolate... what exactly is it that makes this hot drink so magical? The chocolate? The cream? The warm feeling in your stomach? The nostalgia of snowy days when school was canceled, the sledding was perfect, and the cookies were still warm when the gang came inside all wet mittens and red noses!

Close your eyes as you take that first sip, and you are instantly transported to a place of sweetness within you... and a cozy feeling of safety and security, the rich flavor activating your pleasure centers and creating that warm, tingly sensation that comes with only the purest cocoa content.

The Aztecs were the first to invent this magic potion. The Spanish refined it and brought it back to Europe. Slowly, it made its way North to France and was common by the time of Louis XV. We've known for quite some time that eating dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. And while many consume small amounts of organic, dark chocolate for health benefits, I think of chocolate, and a mug of hot chocolate especially, as the perfect meditation.

"As the warm, rich, decadent chocolate melts in my mouth, there is only the creaminess...the dreaminess of this present moment."

Yes, Chocolate Covered Gratitude! My inner child is enjoying this moment even as the stressed-out adult is making her list and checking it twice.

"As the warm, rich, decadent chocolate melts in my mouth, there is only the creaminess... the dreaminess of this present moment."

With a steaming cup of hot chocolate, everything is sweeter. Here's my Grandmother’s absolutely delicious recipe, followed by several easy-to-make variations I’ve come to love, too… enjoy!

From the Recipe Box
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, grated
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg

1. Put milk into a microwave-safe container and cook on high in microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Mix in chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon.
3. In a small bowl, whisk an egg until smooth, then mix itinto the chocolate mixture.
4. Return to microwave and cook on High for 3 to 4minutes or until foamy (be careful not to let it boil.)
5. Whisk until smooth and pour into two large mugs.

Healthy Vegan Hot Chocolate for Two
2 1/2 cups soy milk
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons organic cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper

1. Bring the soy milk, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk until frothy. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information/serving: Calories: 196, Total Fat: 6.9g, Cholesterol: 0mg,
Sodium: 620mg, Total Carbs: 29.3g, Dietary Fiber: 6.7g, Protein: 9.9g

White Chocolate Cocoa for a Crowd (10 servings)
This is a great recipe for a skating party or open house.
2 cups whipping cream
6 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate chips
Whipped cream
Candy canes

1. Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and white chocolate chips in a slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted. Stir again before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and candy canes, as desired.

Elf Fuel
OK, let me begin by stating there is absolutely no nutritional value here! But served in a pretty Christmas mug it is the perfect accompaniment to an evening of gift wrapping. Play your favorite Christamas carols mix , light the fireplace, and enjoy!

Servings: 1
1 fluid ounce vanilla flavored vodka
3/4 fluid ounce amaretto liqueur
1 tablespoon instant hot chocolate mix
4 fluid ounces hot milk
Hot Fudge Sauce
Whipped cream

1. Into a coffee mug, pour in the vanilla vodka, amaretto, and add the hot chocolate mix. Pour in the hot milk and stir to blend well.

As Odgen Nash wrote,
"Here's to holly and ivy hanging up,
And to something delicious in every cup."

Happy Holidays!

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