By Susan Mykrantz
As far back as 600 A.D., chocolate was prescribed as a medicinal drink by early Mexican and Central American populations. I like their thinking. Hot chocolate has been my beverage of choice for breakfast or when I’m cold, tired, hungry or grumpy. Or any combination of the four. There is just something about a warm cup of cocoa, made with milk of course, that fixes the hangries. When I was growing up, we made our cocoa by heating milk and adding chocolate powder from a can with a rabbit on the front. Now I like my cocoa with a hot chocolate mix I make myself. My mom likes a little coffee powder added to her hot chocolate, as she considers coffee and chocolate two of the main food groups, in spite of the food pyramid guidelines put out by the experts in the USDA.
So, all joking aside, how can a cup of hot chocolate in the morning get your day off to a great start?
Hot chocolate helps fight stress, anxiety and depression. It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant and triggers the production of endorphins that make people feel pleasure. Plus, the high concentration of antioxidants calms rising stress hormones. Hot chocolate has cancer-fighting antioxidants. Research has shown that a cup of hot chocolate has twice as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as a glass of red wine and as much as three times more than a cup of green tea. And researchers also suggest starting your day with a cup of hot chocolate and save the tea and wine for later in the day. Hot chocolate contains healthy fats in the dark cocoa which help blood absorb sugar slowly, which prevents insulin spikes.
Hot chocolate’s flavonoids found in the cocoa aid the body in processing nitric oxide. This prevents blood clots by making platelets less sticky and improves blood flow, which in turn lowers blood pressure and helps the heart stay healthy. Flavonoids in chocolate help prevent platelets in your blood from mingling together and forming clots. Cocoa’s blood-thinning capabilities significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke. And with increased blood flow throughout the body there is also an increase of oxygen to the brain. Drink a cup of hot chocolate and your mind will be sharper. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers believe drinking cocoa helps stave off dementia.
Hot chocolate can also help lower the risk of heart disease. Consuming about 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day is one way to lower your risk. It reduces inflammation and floods your body with flavonoids and antioxidants that protect from free radicals linked to heart disease and certain cancers. Again, as I stated earlier, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as stron as red wine. Cocoa’s concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea. They also found that the “hot” in “hot chocolate” is important as well. More antioxidants are released when it’s heated up.
Hot chocolate can also help you control your weight as enjoying some chocolate prior to or after a meal can reduce your appetite and prevents insulin spikes, which keeps the body’s fat-burning ability going strong.
Hot chocolate, particularly when it is made with milk, strengthens teeth. The tannins in cocoa contain oxalic acid, which lowers acid production and reduces plaque growth. In addition, dark hot cocoa contains theobromine, known to harden enamel and help prevent discoloration.
Hot chocolate also protects your skin because of the flavonoids which help increase the skin’s hydration and improve your complexion. They also absorb harmful UV light, protecting you from skin cancer.
Hot chocolate can also help you sleep better at night because it warms you up, especially when you are chilled from a long day of chores.
Hot chocolate is high in essential vitamins and minerals: Dark cocoa is rich in potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. These support good health and protect you from anemia, type 2 diabetes and dangerous heart problems. Real chocolate with real milk and unrefined sugar is an incredibly complex substance, containing 400-500 different health-benefiting compounds. Nutritionally, 1 cup (250 g) of hot chocolate is about 194 calories, with 3.6 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.7 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 110 mg of sodium, 492.5 mg of potassium, 2.5 mg of dietary fiber 2.5 g, 9 grams of protein, 5 mg of caffeine, 8 percent of daily requirements for vitamin A, 28 percent of daily requirements for calcium and vitamin D, 20 percent of daily requirement for vitamin B-12, 6 percent of daily requirements for iron, 5 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin B-6 and 14 percent of daily requirements for magnesium. Hot cocoa is a power food and for good reason. Its scientific name is Theobroma cacao, ancient Greek for “food of the gods.”
This week, Cook Simply is featuring two recipes for your own hot chocolate mix, a cappuccino mix and a special treat known as a “Chocolate Bomb.” Until next time, simply cook.
1 cup instant coffee creamer
1 cup instant chocolate drink mix
2/3 cups instant coffee crystals
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. To prepare one serving: add 3 tablespoons of the mix to 6 ounces of hot water, stir well. (Yields 3 cups of dry mix)
High Brow Hot Chocolate
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
½ cup corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint whipping cream
2 quarts milk
Over low heat, blend chocolate pieces with syrup and water until chocolate melts. Pour into a container and refrigerate until cooled. Add vanilla. In a large bowl, with mixer at a medium speed, beat whipping cream while gradually adding cooled chocolate syrup. Continue beating until the mixture peaks. Refrigerate. Just before serving, spoon some chocolate whipped cream into cups. Fill the cup with hot milk. Stir. Makes 16 servings.
Hot Chocolate Mix
1 pound box Nestle Quik
8 cups dried milk
1 pound jar Cremora
1 pound powdered sugar
Mix all the ingredients together. Store the mixture in an air-tight container. Use ¼ to ½ cup of the mixture in 1 cup of hot water. (Makes 1 gallon of powdered mix)
Hot Chocolate Bomb
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
Chocolate Mix Instructions
Mix sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a jar or food processor and mix well. Store in a sealed jar in a cool dry place.
1 cup chopped chocolate wafers (can use white, dark or milk chocolate)
6 tablespoons chocolate milk powder (divided)
3 tablespoons mini marshmallows (divided)
Chocolate Bomb Instructions
You can use a double boiler or use a microwave. If you use a microwave, select a microwave bowl and melt for 10 seconds, stir, and melt for another 10 seconds, stir again and melt for again if needed. One cup of chocolate wafers should take about 30 seconds to melt.
1 silicone chocolate bomb mold
Chocolate Bomb Mold Instructions
Add a heaping spoon of melted chocolate to each of the six chocolate molds. Use the spoon to spread the chocolate up the sides of each mold, making sure the inside of the molds is evenly coated with chocolate. (Save the extra chocolate to use later.) Place the molds in the freezer for about 10 minutes or until the chocolate is completely set. Once the chocolate is set, remove the chocolate cups from the mold, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
To Assemble the Hot Chocolate Bomb
Flip over the three of the molds to be filled. Fill each half with two tablespoons of the chocolate milk powder or hot chocolate mix of your choice, and 1 tablespoon of the mini marshmallows. Place the remaining three halves, seam side down, on a separate baking sheet. Heat a plate in the microwave and place the molded half seam side down on the plate to slightly melt the rims of the molds. With gloves, (so you don’t leave fingerprints on the molds) cover each filled chocolate half with an empty half, sealing the edges. You can pipe extra chocolate on the seam. Decorate the bombs with any extra melted chocolate, sprinkles or other decorations. For best results, use immediately or within 24 hours. Store at room temperature.
To make hot chocolate, add a chocolate bomb to a large mug. Slowly pour about 1 ½ cups hot milk over the bomb, stir, sip and enjoy.