Calming cocoa creations

Recoup from the busyness of the season with a cup of comfort. Hot cocoa has long been winter’s favorite beverage and now studies have found the flavonoids in cocoa act as a stress-busting compound.

Chocolate flavonoids relax your body’s blood vessels so the arteries can dilate and reduce blood pressure. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain the most flavonoids. Whether coming indoors from sledding or after a hard day at work, de-stress with a cup of hot chocolate.

Try these simple cocoa creations and change your hot chocolate into a cup of comfort:

Candy Cane Cocoa: Add 3 tablespoons crushed hard peppermint candy. Serve with peppermint candy stick and marshmallow crme.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry: Add 2 tablespoons cherry juice concentrate. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a stemmed maraschino cherry.

Peanut Butter Cup: Add 1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter.

Slim-Trim Peanut Butter Cup: Add 1 heaping tablespoon PB2 peanut butter.

Swiss Mocha: Add 2 to 2-1/2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee. Top with frothed milk and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Premium Mocha: Add 1 to 2 shots gourmet espresso. Top with frothed milk.

Citrus Cocoa: Add 1/2 teaspoon orange extract. Top with frothed milk and serve with a cinnamon stick.

Cocoa a la Mode: Add 1 heaping spoonful of softened vanilla ice cream; drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Vermont Cocoa: Add 2 teaspoons real maple syrup and a layer of mini marshmallows and toasted pecan pieces.

Spiced Cocoa: Add 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Serve with cinnamon stick.

Hot Cocoa Mix

All you need

3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

4-1/2 cups superfine confectioners’ sugar

6-1/2 cups Hy-Vee dry nonfat milk

1 tsp Hy-Vee salt

2 tsp Hy-Vee ground cinnamon

All you do

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a 6-quart bowl until thoroughly combined. Store mixture in an airtight container. Makes 40 servings.

For 1 serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mixture in a coffee cup or mug, and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve.

Nutrition facts: 110 calories, 23g carbs, 8g protein, 1g fat, 2g fiber, 125 mg sodium.

Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.

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