Archive for the ‘Drink’ Category

Hot Cocoa Mix

After making marshmallows at home a few weeks ago, I immediately gathered the ingredients to make cocoa mix.  Of course, the ingredients have been collecting dust since then.  One Sunday afternoon, while Claire was recovering from a bad cold and (thankfully) taking a long nap, I convinced Rice Kernel to help me prepare mix to be packaged in holiday gift bags.  Boy did he have fun scooping, digging, and sticking his little fingers all over the mix – just like the sand box!

This is a simple recipe with few ingredients, so using quality is key.  We found Valrhona cocoa and Nido whole milk powder (which most people seem to agree on).  For a healthier version, you could use nonfat milk powder.  To add some kick, add cinnamon, cayenne, or peppermint.  For serving, hot water is perfect, but milk and a splash of liquor wouldn’t be out of the question – especially for the holidays!

Cocoa Mix


2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cayenne, cinnamon, peppermint candy, crushed
Hot water

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
  2. Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry.

Read Full Post »

I’m recovering from oral surgery.  Due to years of braces (and genetics?), I have to undergo a series of gum grafts to repair receeding gums.  Yes, it is fairly painful and bloody.  Mostly it’s inconvenient.  Limited activity, 4-5 days of mushy foods, and chewing limited to a small area of your mouth.  Enter the smoothie:  an easy way to ingest my quota of fruits and vegetables during the immediate post-op days.  And now, let’s get to know each other on a happier note.


By the time my husband, FHE, and I were college students in the early 2000s, smoothie love was in full swing.  On the West Coast, people had been lining up at Jamba Juice for years.  At school, I recall friends filling their dormroom fridges with Odwalla and other bottled vegetable and fruit concoctions.  FHE discovered the smoothie station at the student center and enjoyed his share of the “Sunrise Smoothie.”  Now if you’re envisioning an amalgamation of the freshest and finest fruits, think again:  these two words evoke nothing but creamy decadence.  We’ll never know the ingredient list, but I’m pretty sure the Sunrise Smoothie was comprised of passionfruit juice (or some other tropical fruit), canned fruit (pineapple, peach) with syrup, and orange sherbert.

About this time, my mother-in-law, who is a nutritionist by training, began warning us about the smoothie trend: don’t overdo it – it’s all sugar.  Fruit, fruit juice, and fruit sorbet or fruit yogurt.  Sugar, sugar, and more sugar.  Her message was particularly relevant to my husband, since my father-in-law is a lifelong diabetic.  Since the end of college, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve consumed a smoothie.  And then Rice Kernel came along.

After his first birthday, I discovered that my fruit-fiend son didn’t enjoy milk.  But if I froze fresh fruit and pureed it with milk, voila!  And for a creamier, thicker texture, Greek nonfat yogurt worked wonders.  Rice Kernel never had a problem downing his share of vegetables, but I’ve been known to sneak in a little spinach or carrot into the mix as well.  Healthy and easy to consume, my cleaned-up smoothie became an ally in the attempt to pump Rice Kernel with the requisite amount of vitamin D and calcium. 

On weekends, Rice Kernel often joins my husband and I at the gym.  He plays in the gym’s “KidsClub” while FHE and I break a sweat and catch up on bad movies and reality TV.  The moment we pick him up he says excitedly (without fail), “I want a smoothie!”  Fortunately, the gym shares my philosophy on smoothie ingredients.  Comprised of lowfat Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and ice, it is simple, clean, and delicious.  Rice Kernel’s favorite?  TriBerry – blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries – and Tropical (just like his dad) – pineapple, mango, and orange.  For the adults, there’s an array of fruit and vegetable smoothies that incorporate kale, spinach, broccoli, dates, spirulina, etc.  A little too “liquid salad” for me, but I have it on good authority it’s a sweet, complete meal on-the-go.

Next time you’re looking for a way to get your five-a-day, forget the Jamba Juice menu and consider blitzing together some protein-rich (low sugar) yogurt, fruit, and greens.  It’s a complete snack (or meal) and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll fill your “rainbow” for the day.  Best of all, there’s no worrying about recipes or seasonings.  Just keep blending until you’re pleased with the flavors.

Read Full Post »

Snow Days

The three of us went to Lake Tahoe for a few days with my in-laws.  I’ve been making the trip with my husband’s family since high school and before Rice Kernel came along, a drive to the mountains meant sleep, rest, and movies – all to excess.  With a little one in tow these days, our priorities have changed.  The trip is no longer synonymous with restful relaxation (okay, slothiness) – it’s about playing in the snow!  (And showing Rice Kernel that wearing layers is essential in some places.) 

We were greeted by abundant snow and cold this trip.  In fact, it snowed all of Friday.  Temperatures were below zero at night and in the low double digits during the daytime.  It’s no surprise there was lots of shoveling and shivering.  Fortunately, we had a solution to combat fatigue and the chill:  homemade hot chocolate.  Unlike the small, store-bought packets of hot cocoa mix (of which I’ve had my fair share), homemade hot chocolate uses real melted chocolate instead of added sugar, flavorings, and milk powder.  Decadent and satisfying, it is the perfect reward for shoveling the driveway and will entice even the little ones to come in from hours of sledding. 

Now that we’re home, don’t think the hot chocolate got left behind in Tahoe.  Did I mention milk + chocolate is the perfect workout recovery drink?  With carbohydrates, fat, calcium and protein, hot chocolate may be the superfood to replenish your tired muscles on any day of the week.  Of course, fat-free milk is probably a wiser choice here.  But I digress.

How does your family warm up from the snow?

Basic Hot Chocolate


    4 tbsp chocolate (we used 60% cacao for a more intense chocolate flavor and little added sugar)
    2 tbsp agave nectar
    5 cups milk (your choice of fat content in the milk or use of cream will dictate the level of creaminess)
    1 tsp vanilla
    pinch of salt
    Optional flavorings


  1. Warm milk in a small pot over low heat.  Bring to low simmer.
  2.  Add chocolate, agave, salt, vanilla and optional flavorings. 
  3. Whisk vigorously until chocolate is dissolved.
  4. Serve with optional marshmallows or whipped cream.

 Optional flavorings

  1. Cinnamon.  Add a pinch of cinnamon or infuse the milk with a cinnamon stick during the initial heating process.
  2. Chopped peppermint / candy cane (infused in the milk or used as a topping at the end).
  3. Chai spices.  If using spices, brew them into the milk during the initial heating process then strain before adding chocolate.
  4. Peanut butter chips melted in with the chocolate.
  5. Caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought).
  6. Hot chili powder for an Aztec-inspired chocolate drink (infused in the milk).
  7. Liquors.  Not for the kiddies.

Read Full Post »