My family is known for being dessert fanatics. My grandpa was a baker all his life (maybe that is where I inherited my love to bake) and there are always a variety of desserts served at every family gathering. My Aunt loves to tell the story about when years ago she brought her fiancé over to dinner at my parent’s house and he was amazed to be served a choice of cakes with his ice cream (and expected to eat more than one I am sure). Over the years the desserts just kept multiplying. Last night was my mom’s suprise birthday party and lots of family gathered to celebrate. We literally had more dessert options than main course choices! Since I hosted, I opted out of baking and had my aunt and father pick up desserts. We had a caramael coconut truffle cake, German chocolate cake, chocolate fudge cake, strawberry shortcake, poppy seed loaf, traditional Estonian dessert bread (almond Kringle), mini cupcakes for the kids, ice cream and a variety of little squares, chips and flavoured popcorn. Dinner was healthful at least, but dessert was a gluttonous affair. I had to limit my family to one slice of cake each and one small side to try. The kids were still wired and I was nauseous after my slice of fudge cake and ice cream paired with my favourite poppy seed bread. My eyes always trick me that it will taste so good and my stomach often has to remind me it doesn’t enjoy processing that crap. I sent as much of the sweets home with guests as I could and the rest will be donated to the neighbours today. I could have said no sugar to the kids, but I don’t want them to view food as a reward or punishment, or they are apt to gorge when out of my sight. If they are at someone’s home and offered food, I don’t want them to go hungry or be impolite in declining, but I do want them to make educated choices about what they eat and be responsible for what goes in their mouth. It’s a process we are walking out together.
Our family is determined to go as refined sugar free as possible for many reasons. (Read this article here for ten of them.) That means reading labels on everything we buy and nixing all dextrose, sugar and glucose-fructose, and especially all “high fructose” anything. My daughter is the most cynical of this plan and has a constant list of items she cannot live without. One of those I tackled recently which was hot chocolate, or hot cocoa. What kid (or adult) doesn’t love coming in from sledding (or shovelling) and enjoying a nice, warm cup of cocoa? This recipe is refined sugar free, dairy free, paleo friendly and naturally gluten free. I found the original recipe at livingwellmom.com and barely tweaked it to my kid’s preferences. I recommend you check out her website as she has lots of great recipes and ideas for healthful living (and I totally borrowed the photo idea and snapped a photo of my little girl trying her new hot cocoa. Can you tell she loves penguins?) She approved! My son didn’t seem to notice anything different and slurped his through a straw as is his norm. It’s quick to make and worth the little bit of extra effort to not have kids bouncing off the walls after it has been consumed.
Healthy Hot Cocoa
Makes one serving. Double or triple as needed.
1 cup unsweetened organic almond milk
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp pure honey (could use maple syrup if preferred and add more or less depending on your sweetness preferences)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (could also substitute pure mint extract here)
Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat until dissolved.
Strain through a mesh strainer before serving. Even though it appears dissolved, this step is important or there is a grainy/powdery texture.