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Recipe of the Week: Hot chocolate for instant warm-up

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When my nephew was on board ship with the Coast Guard, and no chocolate desserts were available, he would open a packet of instant hot chocolate and pour it into his mouth. Forget the amenities of adding hot water or milk. He wanted that instant dose of cocoa and sugar to hit his taste buds as fast as possible.
Most of us prefer our hot chocolate – especially this time of year – as a sweet, warming drink. Many of the supermarket varieties are nicely done, although you really can’t beat a cup of hot cocoa made from scratch.
We can thank the ancient Mayans for creating the first chocolate drinks, although theirs were unsweetened and served cold. It was the Spaniards who brought the drink to their home country, sweetened it and served it warm.
After it reached England, where chocolate shops became popular, it moved on to North America and became a favorite here.
We have been enjoying it ever since, and it is especially welcome at any cold-weather outdoor sport, after we’ve been playing outside on a snowy day, or any time there is a chill in the air.
Chocolate is, after all, America’s favorite flavor. Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person, according to thechocolatestore.com. Breaking it down to about a pound a month, that equals approximately 100 Hershey’s Kisses. Amazingly, Europeans consume even more.
Valentine’s Day is coming up fast on the calendar. Americans will purchase approximately 58 million pounds of chocolate, which includes about 36 million heart-shaped boxes. In the meantime, we can stay warmed up with hot chocolate drinks.
Here are two recipes from celebratingsweets.com, for traditional and white hot chocolate.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

4 cups milk (preferable whole or 2 percent)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place milk, cocoa powder and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until warm (but not boiling). Add chocolate chips and whisk constantly until the chocolate chips melt and distribute evenly into the milk. Whisk in vanilla extract, serve immediately.

Homemade White Hot Chocolate

4 cups milk
1 cup good quality white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt, optional
Optional garnishes: white chocolate chips, white chocolate shavings, marshmallows, whipped cream

Place the milk, white chocolate, vanilla and a pinch of salt (if using) in a medium saucepan. Whisk continuously over medium-low heat, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth (do not boil). Serve immediately.


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