beverage & drink recipes: scents of home & loco for hot choco
For me, the tastes and smells of fall not only mean the holidays are soon approaching but it’s a warm feeling that I embrace. Not because of all the prezzies I may get from Mr. Santa (well, who’s kidding, that’s pretty nice) but more so the warmth of embraces that we have for each other during this time of year. And even if it’s just for a few months that we are on good behavior, I savor it.
After traveling and moving abroad, being away from everything that is familiar, and even though I made my host country home, it’s not “HOME”. During the years of globetrotting or when I was in boarding school as a child, savoring sips of hot cocoa and graham crackers (actually dipping them into the hot chocolate) those smells, as mundane as it might sound, mean EVERYTHING. One year, I actually kept the wrapping paper my parents sent from “American Greetings” because it had that “all American style” and the paper had that Holiday smell, a smell so specific during the holidays. This year was no different. I finally gave in and ordered a bunch of glass ornaments for a Christmas photo shoot. I had done the modern tree with ornaments from independent designers, and while I love them, I’ve always wanted glass. I decided to do silver and gold. Most are imported from Germany, Poland, and other parts of Europe, but I bought them from “The Christmas Market” and think in the US, every state must have their own version of “A Christmas Market”.
The package arrived across the globe (thank goodness for Expat Personal Shoppers) and it was fast, and very, very reasonable. Each ornament was carefully packaged, placed in its own box with “The Christmas Market” written on each one. I smelled the tissue paper, and it brought back a whiff of memories down holiday lane. Fleeting and subtle scent memories, but truly exciting and somehow bittersweet.
For me, this time of year means hot chocolate! Hot chocolate is still as popular as it was over 2,000 years ago when it was invented by the Mayans and it’s easy to see (or rather, taste) why.
Growing up on the East Coast from New York to Baltimore, I’m no stranger to ice storms, snow storms, and sleigh riding. When I was a child, I would wear the favorite boots I got for Christmas, white snow boots with the furriest of furs around the calf. I would slosh in wet snow through the back entrance of our previous home, an old Victorian House,along with my siblings with our noses running and red. My mother would fix us a cup of Hot Cocoa. Now it might have, on occasion, been out of a package of “Swiss Miss” but for me it was what I looked forward to most on a cold day.
I’m currently abroad, so it wasn’t my usual packet of “Swiss Miss” nor was it “Hershey’s” cocoa. I used Meiji Chocolate , and Van Houten which is sold here in the supermarkets. Both are equally the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
Because I’m older and still like mine quite rich, I have a small portion to curb the calories or use reduced sugar cocoa. The Mr. has become quite smitten with this, this year! But for a truly old fashioned cup of hot cocoa, here’s a fantastic recipe:
250 ml of milk, a quarter heavy cream and the rest whole milk
Two tablespoons (heaping) of your favorite cocoa
Sugar to taste (unless the cocoa comes pre-sweetened)
Three large marshmallows (We get ours from Belgium one has a slight berry taste, similar to guimauve)
For a truly old-fashioned cup, allow the milk to form a skin after being brought to a boil, stove top is the best, but if you want it in a minutes (or two) time, here’s what I do: I heat the milk up in a microwave, stir in the chocolate, then add the marshmallows, put it back in the microwave and heat until the marshmallow become three times their size, and ta dah, it’s done! If I have guests, I sprinkle it with an extra touch of bitter cocoa.