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Chef's Hat: Warm up on a cold day with hot chocolate

If you're serious about hot chocolate, the way to go is to make it from scratch. There are many amazing hot chocolate recipes out there that include everything from banana peels to cookie crumbs. But, of course, there are very few things that don't go well with chocolate. PineandLakes.com Illustration

Let's face it, those little packets you add water to are easy, but they really are not hot chocolate. But in a pinch, or if you are short of time, an amendment or two to that packaged mix will greatly enhance the flavor of your drink.

Here are some simple ingredients to add some zip to that dull package of hot chocolate:

• Stir your hot chocolate with a candy cane to give it a hint of peppermint.

• Add a teaspoon of cinnamon or stir with a cinnamon stick.

• Add a few drops of gingerbread coffee creamer for a cookie flavor, or add other seasonal-flavored coffee creamers.

• Add a half teaspoon of vanilla.

• Add a teaspoon of caramel sauce.

• For those who like things a bit spicy, add a shot of hot sauce.

• Top your cocoa with chopped Oreo cookies or chopped gingersnap cookies.

If you're serious about hot chocolate, the way to go is to make it from scratch. There are many amazing hot chocolate recipes out there that include everything from banana peels to cookie crumbs. But, of course, there are very few things that don't go well with chocolate.

Some articles I read said that dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate make the best hot cocoa. I have used chocolate syrup, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate candy bars and always end up with a good cup of cocoa. If you want something a bit different you can even use white chocolate.

Marshmallows and whipped cream are the typical toppings for hot chocolate. Other great ways to garnish a mug include sliced bananas, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, sprinkles or a spoonful of honey.

After you're out on the ice or playing in the snow, there's nothing better than a steaming mug of cocoa. Get creative as there's no end to the fun you can have once you start putting sweet or spicy ingredients into your cocoa. Happy Holidays and Happy Eating!

Candy Cane-Kahlua Hot Chocolate

Adpated from Delish.com

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 candy cane
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ ounces Kahlua (Baileys always works quite well in this recipe)
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Additional candy canes (if desired)

Place milk and heavy cream into a saucepan. Turn heat to low. Add one candy cane and stir until the candy cane is melted into the mixture.

Stir in chocolate and vanilla extract.

Remove from heat, stir in Kahlua, and pour into glass.

Garnish with whipped cream and an additional candy cane.

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa

Adapted from bonappetit.com

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Cinnamon sticks for garnish
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces rum or bourbon (optional)
  • Marshmallows

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring milk and cinnamon to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk frequently and make sure the milk doesn't boil. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes. The cinnamon will have become very fragrant.

Whisk in the chocolate, sugar and salt and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy and chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Pour into mugs. (This should be enough for four nice mugs of cocoa.)

If desired, add a shot of rum or bourbon to each mug. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and top with marshmallows.

Hot & Creamy Cocoa

Adapted from landolakes.com

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate shavings (for topping)

Place chocolate chips in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn heat to low and melt chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Once chips are melted, stir in sugar, water and salt.

Increase heat to medium. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue cooking 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and half and half; cook until heated through. (Do not boil.) Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Remove from heat; beat with whisk until frothy.

Pour into mugs. Serve with whipped cream and top with chocolate shavings.

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