Whew, the holidays are over and most of us are tired of the hustle and bustle

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Whew, the holidays are over and most of us are tired of the hustle and bustle and ready to just settle down and spend time at home with our families.

On cold evenings there is nothing I like better than to have hot chocolate while we watch a football game or I work on my cross-stitch.

The best part about hot chocolate is that it is like a blank slate. It starts with something basic and you can add as many different layers of flavor as you like.

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If you have company over, just make the basic hot chocolate and set up different toppings, such as marshmallow, whipped cream, cinnamon or even some liqueurs to choose from, such as butterscotch, peppermint or crme de cocoa. And if your children, like mine, actually like the kind that comes in the little packets, you can make it with milk, not water, and a tiny touch of vanilla to liven it up.

So pick yourself out one of these recipes and spend the cold evening with your family.

Two-chocolate cup

This first recipe has two kinds of chocolate in it. Be sure you grate them up finely so they will dissolve quickly. I usually use my food processor for this task so I don’t get fingers in the grater.

1 cup of milk, whole

1 cup of half and half

2 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar

2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, grated or chopped finely

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated or chopped finely

Place the milk and half and half in a saucepan with the sugar and heat over medium heat. As milk warms up stir in the chocolate a little at a time. When the sugar and chocolate have dissolved and the mixture is hot, add the vanilla. Stir briefly then serve.

Mexican hot chocolate

Hot chocolate in Mexico always involves some spice in it, such as cinnamon. Because they use chocolate in their savory dishes as well as desserts, they mostly use unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder. Try this one for a South of the Border flair.

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 4 cup water

6 whole cloves

4 3-inch cinnamon sticks

2 cups milk

1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

1 cup of whipping cream, divided in two

Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and warm it over very low heat. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, sugar and water and then add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Whisk the warm milk mixture into your cocoa mixture and 1/2 cup of the cream. Stir often and bring to a simmer over low heat. While it is heating whip the remaining cream to use as a topping.

Everyday chocolate

And just in case you need a hot chocolate mix to have around all the time, here is my favorite one. This is very old and I have no idea where it originated, but it is a year-round beverage at my house, except we use a 1 cup of hot milk instead of a cup of hot water.

10 cups nonfat dry milk powder

6 ounce jar of powdered nondairy coffee creamer

4 cups of powdered sugar

2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine all the ingredients in large bowl and mix together with a whisk thoroughly until blended. Store in an airtight container. This makes about 17 cups of mix. To make stir 3-4 tablespoons of mix into a cup of hot water or milk until dissolved.

Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.