Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Mug of Joy

Now let's lighten the mood a little and talk about something FUN!  When my family went full-on health crazy, completely organic, it was Spring/Summertime.  I wasn't exactly thinking about what we would do for post-sledding sessions.  When the cold weather hit I was on a quest for the perfect hot chocolate/cocoa/drinking chocolate, and at the time there weren't all that many options.  I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to partake, but just in case I thought I would be up for it at some point, one of my difficult search criteria (in addition to it having to be organic) was no refined sugar...I didn't even want evaporated cane sugar, actually.  I was (and still am) on a no-sugar diet...not even fruit most of the time (this is much better for my condition and I will discuss more in another post), so I wasn't thinking I would find much.  After lots of shopping around and internet research I came across "the one" - NibMor Drinking Chocolate (www.nibmor.com).  What initially impressed me was the ingredient list: Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, Organic Cacao Powder, Sea Salt...yup, that's it!  It is organic and vegan, but more importantly it has NO refined sugar, gluten, dairy, or GMOs.  The next test would be how it tasted.  In my son's exact words, "It tastes REALLY good!"  My husband and mother agree as well!  We love both the traditional and mint flavors (added to cow's milk, coconut milk, almond milk, water - you decide!), and we also love NibMor's message and what they stand for.  It feels so good to support companies like this so they can keep making the world a better place.  We buy NibMor from another superhero company (you will love me for this one, too) Abe's Market (www.abesmarket.com).  You will fall in love with Abe's customer service!  It's one of the best sites out there for amazing and cool products!  *(And today you can save $10 off your order of $40 or more with the code: "GRAPEFRUIT" - and I would suggest spending at least $49 so you can enjoy free shipping, too - so shop around a little, or wait for their next great deal/promotion!)

Our family favorite, NibMor & Theo Chocolate Bar & Equal Exchange Chocolate Chips
Now there are lots of other organic options out there.  We have just stuck with what we like.  Feel free to research around, compare ingredient lists, prices, etc. to find the best one for you.  Here is a list of possibilities to get you started (many also found at Abe's Market): Ah!Laska, DagobaEqual Exchange (love their baking cocoa), Green & Black's (love their chocolate bars), Lake Champlain Chocolates (go Vermont!), and 365 (found at Whole Foods).

If you would like to whip up your own, try this recipe from over at Whole Lifestyle Nutrition-

1 cup organic cane sugar, rapadura, coconut sugar or granulated honey
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder
6 oz per cup milk of choice

Combine sugar and cocoa powder in a pint size mason jar.
Place the lid on and shake until well combined.
On the stove top, warm 6 oz of milk to desired temperature. Do not boil the milk.
Once warm, stir in 2 tbsp of hot cocoa mix per 6 ounces of milk and stir until dissolved. So if you are making 2 cups you would add 12 oz of milk and 4 tbsp of the hot cocoa mix.
Pour into mug and add marshmallows or fresh whipped cream.
Store leftover hot cocoa mix in the pantry.

In a pinch I have also been known to break-up an organic chocolate bar (or open a bag of organic chocolate chips) and whisk it into warm milk on the stove until fully melted.  For those of you who have an allergy or sensitivity to chocolate, you might be able to mix up the recipe above, but with carob powder in place of the cocoa powder (just guessing - would add a little at a time and keep tasting).  Also, to enjoy something sweet with my family I love licorice tea.  You can enjoy it on its own, or add it to your favorite flavors...I love to put licorice and mint teas together.  (Stay tuned for a post about my obsession with tea.)

All of this information for what?  Why change from the brand you already use?  Pull it out and have a look on the back.  Yeah...the Swiss Miss I used to enjoy as a kid...um, I can't even pronounce some of the ingredients, but I do recognize the word "hydrogenated" (now being banned here and there).  I literally cringed when I picked my son up from school and his teacher had served his class a store-brand hot chocolate powder.  Am I uptight?  Maybe.  I just know better now, and knowing what some of these ingredients are capable of makes it awfully hard to feed them to the most precious thing in my life.

Most of all ENJOY and be grateful that we are getting more and more healthy options for the things we grew-up loving and don't want to give up!  At this point we have all heard about the benefits of chocolate, but like a lot of things out there that opinion changes and varies (based on certain medical conditions, etc.) all the time.  I say, pay attention to how it makes you feel, and moderation is key.  If it ups the joy factor in your life, that is good for your health, too!  To warm the heart there is nothing like little, red faces with chocolate mustaches over gigantic smiles!  Stay warm!

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