I have a litany of pretty good excuses: I moved from the city to the country, went through the hell that is renewing an expired driver's license in this crazy, post-9/11 world, have been working full-time on various writing projects with different editors, and I'm still working on the daycare situation for my daughter who turned 1 a few weeks ago. Plus, with the continuous snowfall, I've been having to assiduously monitor our walk and front porch with a shovel so that we don't become completely buried like some Middle Eastern tel. So until my schedule settles down and I can do the proper research required for my posts on issues like library reform (okay, I might be the only one, but I find that issue fascinating :)), I thought I might start posting mini-posts like this one.
Naturally, with all this going on, I'm exhausted, but I'm also ecstatically happy. One of the biggest reasons for my sunny mood and a recent discovery is chocolate. I'm probably not the first woman on the planet to discover how much sunnier chocolate makes a gloomy Winter day, but, specifically, what I've found is that actually taking the time to craft a cup of hot cocoa instead of dumping a packet of chemical-ridden, faux-chocolate powder into a cup and adding boiling water really helps me, not only to get through the mid-day slump but to feel the opposite of slumped entirely.
I was first inspired to give it a go after seeing this New York Times recipe, but upon closer inspection, I knew the recipe was probably too rich for my blood-- too much cream, too much spice, too many expensive ingredients. I could practically hear my stomach and wallet beg for mercy. Instead, I ended up combining that recipe with the much easier, cheaper recipe on the back of the Hershey's cocoa natural unsweetened box. If, like me, you find yourself getting grouchy around 3 o'clock but a nap is not an option, and if you have access even just to a hot-plate, this simple concoction might do the trick! I call it my....
Happy Magic Hot Cocoa Recipe
Skim milk and a splash of whole milk (or whatever your stomach requires. I actually prefer soy to almond milk for sweet drinks like cocoa or lattes.)
A dash of cayenne pepper
A dash of sea salt (or regular salt if you don't want to get all fancy. I think the texture of sea salt adds a little to the taste, but I am probably imagining things.)
1 Tsp. vanilla extract. (The Hershey's box calls for less, but from the beginning I've accidentally poured too much out of that d--n bottle and have come to prefer the taste.)
2 Tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey's. Cheap, perfectly bitter, and delicious.)
1-2 Tbsp. of sugar, depending on taste. I use 1-1 1/2.
A square of dark chocolate or a Hershey's kiss. (Whatever you have at hand that can melt and be yummy, would work.)
1 cinnamon stick
1. In a saucepan, throw in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, dash of salt and then add the milk and turn the burner on. If you do it the opposite way, it can make it hard to stir the chocolate powder in smoothly. The NYT recipe calls for cream, but I use skim milk and a dash of whole milk.
2. Slowly add sugar until the required sweetness is achieved. Don't let the mixture boil, or you'll have to skim the top. I like it bitter, so I gravitate towards only 1 Tbsp. of sugar. If you hate spicy, also err on the side of caution with the cayenne. Try a tiny dash of cayenne pepper, and if you like it, add a full dash next time. If you're skeptical, please try it at least once, It's very much part of the pick-me-up effect :).
3. Find a pretty mug, if you have one at hand, and place a square of chocolate at the bottom along with a cinnamon stick. DO NOT replace the stick with ground cinnamon. I did that the first time, and the cinnamon so overwhelmed the whole drink, it didn't even taste like hot cocoa. If you don't have a cinnamon stick, then just leave this part out.
4. Pour the hot cocoa into the mug over top of the chocolate square and cinnamon stick and enjoy feeling magically restored as you keep frenetically working.
5. Slowly sip as you read my newest poem in Slippery Elm. You can find details of how to purchase a copy here.
That's it! I hope you all enjoy this very aesthetically pleasing and very easy recipe!
And I hope to post more in the next few weeks. On another note, when we moved recently, I chided myself for naming my blog after such ephemeral matters in my life. I no longer live in Brooklyn, and my daughter is no longer a baby. However, I then had to attend a mandatory 8-hour drug and alcohol course in order to renew my expired, out-of-state driver's license, and the instructor, after I shared one too many anecdotes about seeing individuals (and, incidentally, horses) flattened by cars in the city, nicknamed me "Brooklyn". Proof-positive that whether I'm temporarily living in the country or not, I will always be a New York girl at heart. Plus, I'm pretty sure, according to the lore of motherhood, that my daughter will always be a baby to me. So I'm sticking by this name and this blog, even if it seems as if I've disappeared off the face of the planet recently. I haven't, and I have a lot more exciting news to share soon.
Let me know how the cocoa goes! Thanks for your comments!