No Dairy Necessary Hot Cocoa

 A mom's group I attend issued us moms a Christmastime challenge: celebrate each of the 12 (or 10 or 5) days leading up to Christmas by doing something special and unique with the family. I like the idea of creating special seasonal memories for my kiddos so I decided I'd give it a whirl. They gave us a list of more than 40 ideas, some simple and some more elaborate and set us off to work.

The kids loved the idea of a special holiday celebration each day leading up to Christmas, so we put stars next to the ones we liked and have checked them off as we do them. Our top choices included:

  • Set up a nativity set and talk about baby Jesus
  • Make & decorate Christmas cookies
  • Make red & green play dough
  • Have hot chocolate and toast before bed
  • Perform one random act of kindness
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Dance to Christmas music
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Read a Christmas book
  • Drive around at night to see Christmas lights in the neighborhood
We haven't been all that structured about doing one every day, but we have managed check a few off the list in the past several days. Today, we arrived at "Have hot chocolate..." and I had to pause. Making hot cocoa may not sound all that monumental, especially in comparison to whipping up a batch of colored play dough, but Little Sister has a major problem with dairy, so hot cocoa is not something we've ever enjoyed at our house before.

Little Sister's dairy issue is not what would be commonly referred to as "lactose intolerance". It's more like a pre-anaphalactic reaction to the protein structure resulting from the high-heat pasteurization process in most commercially sold milk products...see what I'm saying...nothing to be trifled with. When she was an infant, her entire face would inflate, her eyes swelling to the point that she couldn't see...and that was second hand dairy, if you catch my meaning (yes, I'm talking about breast feeding). The dairy effect is cumulative, in that if she has a tiny amount by accident, she's usually ok. Two tiny amounts, and she starts to get red around the eyes and mouth, three, and well, it's off to the ER. Strangely, she has no reaction to raw, unpasteurized dairy, but we lack the financial resources to spend $13 on a gallon of milk, not including cow shares and dues, so, we just avoid milk all together for Little Sister, and do rice milk or coconut milk instead wherever possible.

In addition to the dairy problem, I'm not all that nuts about hot cocoa, but my darling Boy reminded me that this time of year is not all about me. He was strongly in favor of the "Have hot chocolate and toast" suggestion, so I finally agreed to look in to it.

I started my search in the grocery store where I read the ingredients on several boxes of commercially sold hot chocolate mix. Yuck. In addition to containing milk or milk products, most of them are also loaded with a long list of ingredients that we generally try to stay away from. So I hit the internet. After finding many recipes that made batches for a dozen or more people (do people have hot cocoa parties, or own chalets in the Alps where cocoa is required by law, or what?), I finally came across a recipe for creamy vegan hot cocoa, which appealed both because it used ingredients I readily had on hand, and it made just one cup. By making it in one-cup batches, I could make Little Sister her dairy-free version, and the rest of us could enjoy our creamy dairy filled recipe. I altered it as follows:

No Dairy Necessary Hot Cocoa
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk, or cow's milk (Why shouldn't I use soy milk?)
4 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
Splash of vanilla extract (I used about 1/4 tsp)
Tiny pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water

Combine sugar, milk, cocoa, vanilla, and salt in a large mug. Pour in boiling water into mug and stir until dry ingredients dissolve. Top with mini marshmallows, and/or whipped cream (for dairy friendly consumers). Ok, I know marshmallows aren't exactly health food, but really, sometimes sacrifices must be made in favor of fun.

To me, hot chocolate is painfully sweet and this recipe is no exception, however, the flavor of this cocoa was wonderful and it was indeed creamy, as advertised. The kids got their fix of chocolate and sugar, and felt like mini-grown ups with their coffee mugs and toast. Overall, the chocolate coated smiles made it worth every minute of the resulting sugar high.

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