I find the warmth and rich chocolately flavor comforting, however, most hot cocoa mixes are laden with sugar, made from artificial ingredients and, frankly, not very tasty. One better (albeit more time consuming) option is to use fresh milk and a good quality dark chocolate bar. I’ve done this before and have been pleased with the results, but, consuming almost half of a chocolate bar every time I have a hot cocoa craving isn’t exactly conducive to healthy eating.
So, for this hot chocolate recipe, I’ve decided to use cacao powder. Unlike cocoa powder, which is highly processed and full of chemicals, cacao is the raw form of the cacao, or, cocoa bean. Touted as a superfood, it has more antioxidant flavonoids than any other food tested thus far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green tea. Finding raw cacao powder is easier than you might think. I picked up a bag in the protein powder section of Whole Foods and there are plenty of online retailers that sell it in bulk.
To make this recipe vegan, I swapped out milk for almond milk and, for a sweet reminder of warm summer days, I added aromatic lavender buds. I purchased the lavender from Lavender by the Bay, where Walter and I spent Independence Day last summer.
After exploring Mystic, CT for a few hours, we took a ferry from New London to the North Fork and camped on the shores of the Long Island Sound in Wildwood State Park. I enjoyed spending time on the opposite side of our shared water and loved being a few steps away from the beach. During our stay, we sipped ice wine at Palmer Vineyards, went hiking around the park, and soaked up as much of the intoxicating lavender scent as we could.
Lavender by the Bay is absolutely beautiful and seeing a sea of purple for acres is simply breathtaking. I’ve found several different uses for the culinary lavender I purchased, but, for the cold days that lie ahead, adding a touch of lavender to a classic winter treat is the perfect way to cure winter blues.
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tsp. raw, organic cacao powder
- 1/2 teaspoon lavender buds
- Stevia (optional, and to taste)
Heat the almond milk and lavender over medium heat, whisking occasionally until begins to simmer. Strain lavender and return milk to pot. Add cacao powder and stevia (if necessary). Whisk until chocolate is melted and well incorporated. Turn off heat and whisk again for 10 seconds and pour into a mug. Garnish with lavender buds and almond milk foam (if you have a steamer), snuggle up with someone you love, and enjoy!