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Punch up hot cocoa

Even though there might be T-shirt temperatures in the late afternoons, the nights now are chilly. Time to break out the hot cocoa.



I know the best hot cocoa is made from milk heated in a boiler on the stove with shaved chocolate and sugar slowly stirred in until melted. But my reality is the box with individual packets of mix. Sometimes I do splurge and go full-force with sugar-loaded dark chocolate, but usually it's the diet version that winds up in my cup around 9 p.m.



Let's face it, though. That stuff can start tasting a bit like the cardboard box it comes in. If you're trying to watch your calorie or sugar intake but want your cocoa a bit zippier, try adding a flavoring. Next time you're at the store, check them out in the spice aisle. Great flavors to pair with chocolate include almond, mint, butter rum or vanilla (the real stuff). Just a little drop per cup will do, and I'd stick with just one flavor added. Otherwise, I'm reminded of those slumber parties from my youth where we mixed one too many flavors of soda and wound up with something akin to fizzy cough medicine.



I also keep a couple bottles of (sugar-free) Torani or other drink flavors on hand for my coffee, but you might not want to add that to pre-sweetened cocoa mix. You want cozy comfort, not a faux sugar overload.

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