The kitchen's the coziest place that I know:
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me!
The experts are saying that in twenty years chocolate will be expensive as caviar due to higher demand and less supply. Good old-fashioned cocoa is the cheapest way to get your chocolate "fix". Now I know there are some true chocolate connoisseurs that would scoff at cocoa. Only fancy imported chocolate is good enough for them. I once heard a chef describe eating a piece of chicken, describing as it hit his taste buds at the front of his mouth and how it changed as the food traveled toward the back of his mouth. Well! If you get that much out of food, maybe cocoa isn't for you. I'm talking about the average joes that don't expect food to do things for them except taste good (well and nourish us would be good too). I use good old Hersheys or (gasp!) even cheaper brands. And I can guarantee you that no one has ever turned down a mug of my cocoa.
2 Tbsp. cocoa
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 C. water
1 1/2 C. milk
Blend cocoa and sugar in a saucepan. Gradually add the water, whisking out the lumps. Heat over medium heat for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the milk and heat. Do not boil.
That's the basic recipe, but we always gild the lily. We might add a splash of eggnog or some of those wonderful flavored creamers that are out there. Sometimes we add a bit of mint extract and sprinkle crushed peppermints over top. This cup was made with Silk's pure coconut vanilla milk. Has anyone tried that? Yummy! and the same amount of calories as skimmed milk!
Here's another recipe using cocoa. Plain old cornstarch pudding:
1/2 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1/4 C. cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 1/2 C. milk
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
In a saucepan, stir together the first four ingredients. Gradually stir in the milk. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.
A very basic chocolate cookie that can be dressed up or down:
Chewy Brownie Cookies
2/3 C. shortening
1 1/2 C. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1/3 C. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Beat shortening, brown sugar, water and vanilla together. Add eggs and beat well.
Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture until just blended.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
I made these for Christmas, substituting coconut extract for the vanilla and frosting them with a thick white frosting sprinkled with coconut. Also made them with peppermint extract and stirred in mint chips. Again I frosted them with peppermint frosting. You could also stir in chocolate (or butterscotch or peanut butter) chips. Or how about nuts? Your only limited by your imagination.
Another recipe that lends itself to variations is your basic chocolate cake. Here's the recipe:
6 Tbsp. cocoa
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 C. hot water
1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. shortening
1/4 C. buttermilk (you can substitute regular milk with a splash of vinegar)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Blend together cocoa, oil and water. Stir in sugar. Beat in shortening, egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Bake in a greased 8 inch square pan at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
So you see, good things can come from even the most basic of pantries!