As I write this, my steep driveway is turning into an ice hill worthy of Stochi lugers (as I post this, a few days later, rain is turning that ice into a gushing stream). This winter’s been rough. We’ve had more snow than I can remember. Last week I was stuck inside with Ella for four consecutive days, marooned by a few feet of snow (and deserted by James, who has been furiously finishing up a film). At first it was a treat: snuggling on the couch, playing games, baking muffins, painting rainbows. But about half way in, I started developing a case of cabin fever. There are only so many games of make-believe princess one can take. Ella has absolutely no interest in playing in the snow (“No, it’s cold! And WET!”), so she’d watch from the window as I shoveled paths through the growing banks. One day I came in shivering (and yes, wet) and she asked if I wanted to have a tea party. Why, yes! And of course it had to include one of her very favorites: hot cocoa.
Or, rather, hot cacao. Rather than using a packaged mix, this quick homemade version is made with raw cacao powder, milk, honey and a touch of vanilla. Let me assure you that it’s nearly as easy to make as the stuff out of the envelope that we grew up on, but it’s even more delicious and much more nutritious. Raw cacao is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium and iron, and with just a bit of honey to sweeten, this cocoa has far less sugar than its packaged brethren. Ella loves it in the morning with breakfast, or with her afternoon snack. I usually make up a double batch and refrigerate the leftovers to reheat the next day. It’s a wonderful wintertime “treat,” that’s really not a treat at all.
We sipped our hot cacao, which quickly melted the ice in my bones. Ella then proceeded to entertain herself for over an hour serving “tea” (water) to her kitty and ducky, while I curled up on the couch and read my book. It was the best tea party ever.
*The hot cacao is photographed in mugs that were hand-made by Bettina Utz, owner of East Mountain Girl Ceramics + Design. She’s a friend and mountain neighbor, and will be selling her beautiful dishware at the Bazaar on Hudson, an indoor market of local Hudson Valley and New York City artists, which is opening this spring (every Sunday at the Living Room in Cold Spring). Drinking a cup of warm cacao (or tea, or coffee, or anything) out of one of these mugs is sure to make any day—even the fourth snow day in a row—a little brighter.
- 1 cup whole milk (or other full fat milk of your choice)
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1-2 teaspoons honey , to taste
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch sea salt
- In a small saucepan, combine the milk, raw cacao powder, honey to taste (a teaspoon or two should do you), vanilla and a pinch of sea salt (sometimes I also add a pinch of cinnamon or even cayenne, if I’m feeling racy). Place the mixture over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Serve warm.