Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Days — Susie

As a teacher, I love snow days - I get to sleep in, grade papers in my pajamas, watch television, shovel out the driveway at my leisure, and enjoy the winter wonderland without worrying about having to drive in it. The downside to snow days (aside from having to go to school later and later in June) is the isolation. Not driving means spending most of the day by myself, and it gets old. Luckily, since we live in town, I can trudge up to the co-op or the library if I get lonely, but most of my friends and future coho neighbors live out a ways and don't have that option. Even though it pales in comparison to face-to-face contact, at least the internet allows us to stay connected during those stormy afternoons.

The last snow day we had, a bunch of us were posting on facebook about the weather in our various towns. One mom asked for suggestions of activities to do with her toddlers while the storm raged outside, and several people were commenting on what we *could* be doing if our cohousing neighborhood - and common house - was built already. We daydreamed about craft activities and storytelling in front of the common house wood stove, snow fort building and snowshoeing on the land, finding easy babysitting for folks who still had to work or run errands, watching our kids sledding in the back field...

In honor of that exciting, wintry daydream (which may be a reality by next winter!), I'm sharing my recipe for hot cocoa - a perfect winter treat, to be made in a big pot sitting on a wood stove, or in smaller amounts to be shared among a few friends (or hoarded all for yourself). This uses a classic Maine sweetener - maple syrup - instead of cane sugar. Share it with your friends and neighbors, and perhaps this time next winter, you can stop by our common house and have a cup before going sledding or snow hiking with us.

Susie's Maple Hot Chocolate
Ingredients for 8-10 servings

1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 C hot water

2 T butter or margarine (optional if you're aiming for vegan cocoa)

1/3 - 1/2 C (real!) maple syrup - use more if you like it sweeter!

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

6-8 C milk or milk-equivalent (I use soymilk and it tastes great)

In a decently sized pot or saucepan with a wide bottom (easier for whisking), whisk the cocoa powder and salt together. Add the hot water and whisk until ingredients are combined, then add the butter, vanilla and the maple syrup. Whisk until smooth, with the burner on simmer. Add the milk, whisking until combined and fully warm.

Now comes an important step – the pre-taste-test. Taste a bit of it to see how sweet it is. You can always add more sugar or maple syrup if you want it sweeter, and more milk if you don’t. You can adjust the cocoa amount, too, if you want. It's very flexible. Just keep tasting until you have it the way you like it. If you’re going to double the recipe, just keep tasting it as you go to make sure proportions are right.

Garnish with marshmallow or whipped cream if that’s your thing, but it's good straight up with no distractions.


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