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November 19, 2008

Family Traditions: Delicious Hot Cocoa!


I love having traditions in our family.  Traditions that build character.  Traditions can provide us all with a feeling of togetherness by sharing in something special that we have made important in our family.  Little things that we do on a regular basis can thrill our children into believing that they are special or sharing in something that is special.  In our family, we share in a big cup of hot, delicious cocoa - the real stuff - on a regular basis.

Our children ask for hot cocoa nearly every night, whether it is in the dead of winter or a hot summer night, they love our family tradition of sharing in this ritual right before bed.  Next comes the coin toss - "okay guys, who's going to make it tonight?"  But that is the least of our problems, because we love hot cocoa.  Love it, love it, love it.  And, we all sleep like babies after sharing in the cup - or two - nearly every night before bed, and especially in the fall and winter months.

Anyone who comes to our home in the evening during the fall and winter, especially, is sure to share in our family tradition of hot cocoa, and we've had many a friend take the simple recipe home and make it for their family.  And, our hot cocoa tradition has now become part of their own family tradition.  And so, I am going to share it with you, so that tonight, before you tuck your little ones in bed, you will share with them a special treat that will warm your heart and comfort their tummies.

Let's share in a mug of hot cocoa shall we? ...


The Players:

1 1/3 cups of Whole Milk per person.  (If you use 2% or Skim, it won't taste the same and will be yukky.  Whole Milk or forget it.)

1 heaping teaspoon (the long handled spoon) or about 1 tspn measured of Hersheys Cocoa - the real stuff

A mug or measuring cup - 1 1/3 cups of milk = 1 measured mug

1 1/4 heaping teaspoon (the long handled spoon again) or about 1 1/4 tspn measured of Sugar per measured mug


Big pan


I measure my milk per person in my mug, but the perfect measure is 1 1/3 cups per mug.


Pour the measured whole milk, per mug, per happy person, in your pan.


I set my stovetop to High, initially, but you can adjust the heat to what you feel comfortable with, as long as it heats the milk without burning it to the bottom of the pan.  You don't want to heat it up so fast that it burns to the pan.  That would make the cocoa taste like burnt toast.  Believe me, I know.  I've done it.  yuk.


Next step is to add the cocoa after the milk has started to heat up nicely.  See that long handled teaspoon I'm using?  That is what I, personally, use to measure, but you can use something different if you like.  As you can see, I add "1" slightly heaping teaspoon of cocoa per 1 1/3 cup of milk (or 1 mug per person).  So, if I am making 5 mugs, I would add 5 slightly heaping teaspoons of cocoa to the pan of whole milk.


It dissolves nicely in the warm milk and I whisk it all together.


Okay, here's the deal, I don't measure the sugar, and I kind of wing it with the amount of sugar I add, so here's how I decide - using the long handled teaspoon as my measure, I pretty much follow this recipe:

1 cup of cocoa = 1 1/3 cups of milk, 1 heaping tspn of cocoa, and 1 1/2 tspn of sugar.
2 cups of cocoa =  2 2/3 cup of milk, 2 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 3 tspns of sugar.
3 cups of cocoa = 4 cups of milk, 3 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 4 1/2 tspns of sugar.
4 cups of cocoa = 5 1/3 cups of milk, 4 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 6 tspns of sugar.
5 cups of cocoa = 6 2/3 cups of milk, 5 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 7-8 tspns of sugar.
6 cups of cocoa = 8 cups of milk, 6 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 8-9 tspns of sugar.
7 cups of cocoa = 9 1/3 cups of milk, 7 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 10 tspns of sugar.
8 cups of cocoa = 10 2/3 cups of milk, 8 heaping tspns of cocoa, and 11 tspns of sugar.

These measurements ought to cover everybody's family.  If you're having a party, then double the measurements for the number of people in your party!


After you've added the sugar, the milk and cocoa should be nice and hot.  Whisk the sugar so that it dissolves in the milk and cocoa.  Yummy.

It's all done and everybody in your family is stomping at the bit to get their cocoa "Is the cocoa ready?!!!"


"Sure is!  Come and get it guys!"  Or better yet, if the fire is crackling in the family room and everyone is huddled around the fire and the television, then put the mugs on a tray, and serve your wonderful family in their jammies in the family room.  They'll sure love ya for it.

Now, if you really want to be fancy, you can add marshmellows and/or whipped cream to the top. So what are ya waiting for!  Get cookin'!


Well, last night I asked them to come to the table and enjoy their cocoa before skipping off to bed.  They all slept like babies.  Sarah talked in her sleep, Glen kicked off his covers and snored, and Matthew didn't move an inch.  Big Bear snored and cut a few cords of wood in the process, and I slept like a baby.

I sure do love hot cocoa before bed.  It's mighty delicious!  You'll have to make it for your family and leave me a comment and let me know how they liked it!

PostScript: Well, no wonder my children are so smart! LOL - I just read an article at Healthier Living with Rallie McAllister, M.D. about winter beverages that boost your health, and guess which one was at the top of the list?  You guessed it - Cocoa!  According to the doc,

"Cocoa owes many of its health-promoting properties to its rich supply of flavonoids, plant-derived compounds that are also present in red wine and green tea, as well as fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are known to boost levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow throughout the brain and body."

Cocoa, is not only an excellent source of antioxidants, but its properties help to combat cellular damage, reduce the risk of cancer, boost your brain to reduce the possibility of developing Alzheimer's, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Cocoa also reduces blood pressure, and increases blood flow to certain areas of the brain. 

By the way, although you can drink cocoa hot or cold, when you drink it hot, which is our favorite, it is well known that "higher temperatures trigger a greater release of disease-fighting antioxidants."

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England also discovered that "...consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa resulted in significant increases in cerebral blood flow.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the scientists demonstrated that study participants who drank cocoa had greater blood flow and increased levels of activity in specific areas of the brain. The beneficial effects lasted for up to three hours following cocoa consumption."

So, what-r-ya waitin' for?!!!  Get crackin'!  Or is that "cookin'?"  Make you and your family a cup of hot cocoa and savor it.  I drink mine slow.  I like to savor the taste and feel the warmth all the way to my toes.  My daughter, Sarah, however, gulps hers down in about 30 seconds or less.  I think I'll go make some more cocoa right now.  Don't you feel better already?



Happy Holidays

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