Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Weather calls for sleigh rides, hot cocoa

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Every time I sit down with a cup of hot cocoa, I'm transported back to my childhood and days spent with the other kids in the neighborhood sliding down a hill near Mark Hopkins School, now MCLA's Mark Hopkins Hall.

We were children of the 1960s, and making a fashion statement was the farthest thing from our moms' minds. Your first layer of clothes was the long-sleeved shirt and long pants you were wearing around the house. Then came a heavy sweater, followed by bib overalls and a heavy jacket. Topping it all off was a scarf around your neck (and over your mouth and nose if it was really cold out), a hat, usually with ear flaps and a huge pon-pom on top that tied under your chin, and at least one, but usually two, pairs of mittens.

The last task was putting on our boots. And since we could barely move at that point, it was up to our moms to get them on. Boots back then were rubber overshoes that zipped or buckled over your regular shoes. The problem lay in getting the boots on over the shoes, which was no mean feat. However, our moms were resourceful. Mine swore by Wonder Bread wrappers, putting one over each foot before literally shoving my feet into the boots. If there were no bread wrappers to be had, sheets of waxed paper were wrapped around each heel.

And then we were off — dragging our Flexible Flyer or Speedaway sled, metal "flying saucer" (guaranteed to stick to your mittens once they got wet) or jack jumper (if your mom didn't believe you'd "break your neck on it"). Pieces of cardboard also worked well. We'd stay out all day on weekends and snow days, and from after school to suppertime and back again after supper for another hour or so.

There was nothing like coming into the house, cold and wet, cheeks ruby red from the cold, and finding a cup of homemade hot cocoa — made with milk, real cocoa powder and sugar, with a marshmallow floating in it — waiting for you. And it was all yours, right after your mom got red in the face herself trying to pull off your boots and peel off the outer layers ...

This has been my go-to hot cocoa recipe for a few years. I'm not sure if it's because I use the Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, but it really needs to be stirred a lot to get it to dissolve with no lumps, but it's so worth it!

Mexican hot chocolate

INGREDIENTS:

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1-1/2 cups cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa)

3 cups powdered sugar

5 cups powdered milk

1 cup powdered creamer

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

(Boiling water when ready to make hot cocoa)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk powder, confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and creamer. Stir till thoroughly combined. Store cocoa mixture in an airtight container. Makes about 7 to 8 cups mix, or enough for about 23 servings.

For 1 serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mixture in a coffee cup or mug, and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Top with dollop of whipped cream or a few marshmallows, if desired.


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