Monday, January 21, 2013

Naturally Flavored Peppermint Hot Chocolate


You learn at a pretty young age that in order to survive a Canadian winter you need at least two things:

A good attitude and a great pair of long johns.

I like to take my cue from the Buddhists who tell us that everything originates in the mind.  Change your mind, change the experience.

Here's how it works:

Those early morning walks with the dog in -34 C wind chill?  Not brutal at all. Invigorating. 

The sun setting in the middle of the afternoon?  Not the least bit depressing.  Cozy

Those three hour stints shoveling ice and snow from November through March?  Not backbreaking in the slightest. Fortifying.

See what I did there?  

And when all else fails, there's always a warming cup of goodness to cheer us up.

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My youngest discovered Starbucks' peppermint hot chocolate just before the holidays (and is quite a fan) so when he had the day off from school last Friday, I decided to surprise him with a homespun version.  This hot chocolate is made from natural ingredients and contains about 75% less sugar than the Starbucks classic (just saying).

75% cocoa chocolate contains very little sugar and its saturated fat content is largely comprised of stearic acid - a type of fat the has not been shown to raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels.  Another portion of dark chocolate's fat content is comprised of oleic acid - a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a phytochemical with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.  Research suggests that flavonoids may help protect our hearts by lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL cholesterol levels.  

In fact, researchers from Harvard Medical School recently conducted a meta-analysis of 24 studies that involved over 1,000 participants and found that drinking hot chocolate made from dark chocolate is associated with reduced blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol and elevating HDL ("good") cholesterol. 

And here's something else. Regular consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to improve the body's use of insulin (the hormone that regulates fat storage).  A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California at San Diego, showed that adults who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed less, despite eating more overall calories.  In fact, BMI was one point lower among those who indulged five times per week compared to those who did not consume chocolate at all.  Researchers suspect that the flavonoid 'epicatechin' found in dark chocolate may help explain the lower body weight finding but more research is needed to establish this link.  In animals, epicatechin has been shown to boost metabolism, increase muscle mass and reduce weight without changing calories or exercise. 

I'll drink to that!


Naturally Flavoured Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • 500 ml (16 fluid oz) milk or milk alternative of choice + extra milk for frothing
  • 40 grams (1.5 oz/4 squares) of quality 75% cocoa chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • Optional: 1 tsp honey 
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish

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Notes:

This recipe will make one 16 fl ounce mug of peppermint hot chocolate or two 8 ounce mugs, as desired.

If you don't own a milk frother, I strongly encourage you to think about getting one. I have been using a milk frother for over 20 years now and would be completely lost without it (I even bring my milk frother on the road with me, as sad as that sounds).

Frothing milk is a great way to add foam and body to your drinks without going the whipped cream route (although that also has its place).  For day to day though, milk frothing is the way to go.

If you do decide to purchase a frother (they come in all types and prices), I highly recommend you invest in a manual (not electric or battery operated) stainless steel one because glass frothers can and do eventually break (that's 20+ years experience with milk frothers...).  The stainless steel varieties will cost you more up front but you will be very happy with your investment.  

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Directions:

Warm milk in a saucepan over low-medium heat until it is hot to the touch but has not yet reached the boiling point - (you may hear hissing as the milk starts to steam and get nice and hot).  Remove from heat and add vanilla and peppermint to the pot of milk, stirring to combine.

Meanwhile, in a separate small pot on stove, heat chocolate over lowest temperature possible, stirring to facilitate melting.  Remove chocolate from heat as soon as it has melted.




I have never used a double boiler system to melt chocolate.  If you melt chocolate at a very low temperature and watch it carefully, you should be fine.

Add melted chocolate to the pot of peppermint milk and whisk to thoroughly combine.  At this point you can taste the peppermint hot chocolate and make flavouring adjustments as desired.  Pour peppermint hot chocolate into a singular mug or divide between two mugs, as desired.

Meanwhile, using a milk frother, froth about 4 fluid ounces of milk.  Transfer frothed milk to a microwave safe jar (the jar should be big enough to hold 16 fluid ounces) and heat for approximately 35 seconds or until frothed milk rises to about double its size (a thing of beauty).  Carefully remove jar from microwave and pour warmed frothed milk over peppermint hot chocolate.



Using a spoon, swirl the frothed milk in with the hot chocolate and add any remaining drips of melted chocolate from the pot to the top of the mug for decoration.  Garnish with a mint leaf or two.

Enjoy and Stay Warm!



38 comments:

  1. Yum! Gosh that looks so good!

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  2. Kelly, I'm always so appreciative of your nutrition information - and your sense of humor! This gorgeous cup of hot chocolate does sound like the perfect antidote to a freezing cold day (or should I say "refreshing" day ;-).

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  3. I'm so excited to receive your healthy blessing to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate!! And I agree with you on the frothing,its almost the best part ;) but honestly I find it hard to agree with the mind part...at -34 degress there is NO WAY I could convince meself its invigorating!! I will never complain about my cold 30 degree weather! Keep warm Kelly

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  4. How pretty is that little cup of hot chocolate! Gorgeous presentation Kelly! I love you attitude about winter. It's funny, Mike and I were out today with a really frigid wind chill. He was saying how cold it was and I said, actually this feels kind of good. It's crisp and fresh. All in the attitude. And I've actually noticed it's staying lighter out longer. We're on the other side of it now! Hope you have a warm and happy day. And by the way - I have no doubt your version beats Starbucks!

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  5. I love the Zen approach, but I must say that wrapping my mind around the "invigorating" walk at that temperature might be a stretch.... OH, MY... YOu ARE brave!

    great chocolate drink, I am not much of a chocolate drinker, but definitely like my piece of dark chocolate before bed. A nice ritual that suits my Zen, even if my Zen is not as powerful as the Canadian winter
    :-)

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  6. Oh boy! I've confirmed I can't live in anywhere that snows! hahaha...great attitude probably won't help my chilling bones at all. :P But I'm sure this wonderful Hot Chocolate would helps a lot. I love your styling on it. It's gorgeous. I would love a cup of it...even I live in Sunny CA. ;)

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  7. I love all that information in favour of dark chocolate. Hot chocolate hasn't always agreed with me but it could have been the levels of sugar perhaps.

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  8. beautifully presented, Kelly. mmmmmMM.

    guess what? School was canceled for tomorrow. It is 40 below in Duluth.

    I love staing home. xxx LOVE.

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  9. Sooo lovely, Kelly! High-five for our subconscious telepathic recipe making, haha!! Your version of this peppermint hot chocolate looks so tasty. I bet your son loved it, eh! Way to stick it to Starbucks ;-)

    Your positive mindset about Canadian winters is just wonderful...I'm not convinced that it works though. In fact...I'm not sure that you're even convinced. Haha!

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  10. Beautiful hot chocolate! I love anything mint-chocolate. Thank you for sharing!

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  11. -34 degree wind chill? Invigorating? Oh please - just give me a pitcher of this hot chocolate! :) Truly, I do see what you did there and it was wonderful! Change your mind, change your experience. I will remember that! So drinking a cup of this wonderful hot chocolate at 3 pm when it's 55 degrees outside and the sun it still up? - Spoiled.

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  12. Such a pretty and warming cup of hot chocolate!

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  13. -34°C??? And I'm here complaining we had several days with -5°C... It seemed the end of the world. One gets used quickly to warmer climate :-)
    You don't know it yet, but you have made this chocolate especially for me ;-) My favourite chocolates from my favourite chocolatier are... mint chocolates, so imagine how my heart started to beat when I saw your hot chocolate! (Of course no awful filling: only dark ganache infused with mint and the chocolate looks 100% dark brown). I always have good quality dark chocolate at home (that is since I moved to Switzerland) so I will remember your wonderful warming drink!

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  14. I guess I'm what you would call an optimist, cup half full kind of gal, so your post is particularly similar to my thoughts. I love freshly fallen snow, and more times than not, have my fingers crossed that it will accumulate enough to have to shovel for thirty minutes! Great excersize and it gives me a chance to reconnect with shoveling neighbours.
    What a treat this cup is! We love our frother too.

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  15. Sonia! The Healthy FoodieJanuary 22, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    I'm right with mjskit! Give me a gallon of this luscious concoction! No matter how many of these harsh Canadian winters I've been through already, I'll never be able to see them as "invigorating" or "fortifying". Your first choice of adjective was the most suitable, if you ask me! BRUTAL! Never been much of a winter person and never will be. In fact, I often say that I am an iguana. GIVE ME HEAT!

    Well, the only one good side of winter has to be that it makes us appreciate comfort food and hot chocolate all the more. Those just wouldn't have the same appeal in the middle of winter, now, would they?

    Oh, and at -29 with the windchill today, I have every intention of staying warm, trust me. Now could you please send me one of those hot chocolates? Please? Pretty please with frothed milk on top?

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  16. Hehe, sounds like the perfect way to get through a Canadian winter. We're finally getting cold temps here in NY, although it sounds like it's still not even close to your lows. I love a good cup of hot cocoa...what a wonderful mama you are!

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  17. I sure hope we're on the other side of it now Kristy... I could use a little spring ;0)

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  18. Thanks so much Margaret - I'm glad you find the nutrition information useful and appreciate you dropping by to let me know. Cheers to the refreshing weather! ;0)

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  19. Thanks Terri - it was good! :)

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  20. Haha, I remember a boot camp instructor who embraced the Zen thing in a rather unique way - she'd scream at the top of her lungs "it's all in the mind, it's all in the mind" as we writhed in pain and I was thinking "it's so not in my mind, it's so not in my mind" even though of course, it was and always is ;0) just hard to live it that way.

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  21. Ah... California... sure, be cruel!

    :)

    Thanks for dropping by my blog! I'm now thinking sunny thoughts ;0)

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  22. I froth every day ;0) On the invigoration front, I wake up to an adorable golden retriever who absolutely deserves to be walked twice a day so you kinda do what you have to do and it's amazing how the mind and body adapt :). In the end, I do believe it's good for me too!

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  23. or perhaps the dairy...? You play with that too.

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  24. Yay, cold days!! (the boys love snow days off but a cold day off works) ;0)

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  25. Haha, I try to keep my sense of humour about me ;0). The funny thing is that even on the toughest dog walking mornings, I always end up viewing it as the best way to start the day!

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  26. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and welcome!

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  27. Haha!! Cheers to the pitcher of chocolate in the sunshine. Spoiled indeed ;0)

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  28. Thanks Angie! I think you're also in a warm climate. Buggers. All of you! ;0)

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  29. You know, I could very quickly adapt to a warmer climate myself and often wonder if I can last into old age in this beautiful, vast, peaceful but utterly freezing cold country (!!) Mint chocolate is pretty darn good isn't it? I still remember those laura secord mint chocolate bars from when I was a kid (bright green - not so natural but oh, so, good!). Cheers Sissi - stay warm ;0)

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  30. Fingers crossed that it will accumulate enough to shovel for at least 30 minutes?! Now *that's* a positive attitude!! Love it Eva and clearly, you need to move to Ottawa my dear - 30 minutes is the min here ;0).

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  31. I love it!! I am a total sun/heat girl too but as long as the universe has planted me in this beautiful country, why not make the best of it (although the life of an iguana does sound quite appealing... i'll send out an intention for my next go through ;0).
    Cheers Sonia - stay warm!!

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  32. Cheers Amy! Nice to see you back and I hope you're feeling better too ;0).

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  33. hello little chocolaty fresh hot treasure! You are going to be mine soon. =P

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  34. Oh yummy! Great lighter take. I'd loved to try this with some hazelnut extract versus the peppermint since I'm the weirdo that doesn't like mint chocolate :P

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  35. Well if I ever needed a good excuse to eat more dark chocolate, I have one now. Not that I really needed one. heheheh. But the information about the fat content the chocolate is interesting. I learned something new!

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  36. Stick with me kid ;0)

    Yes, the stearic/oleic acid is good to know about and I'm also very intrigued by the finding that adults who eat chocolate regularly are leaner than those who do not!

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  37. maybe that's how I stay so svelt! hahahaha

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  38. Haha, good for you girl! :)

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