Merry Christmas – With Cocoa!

I’m sitting on the sofa next to our lovely lighted Christmas tree, all aglow with multi-colored orbs that illuminate the shiny, sparkly, glittery blown glass ornaments that adorn it. My son is sleeping next to me, my husband watching the Dr. Who Christmas special behind me while sitting at his desk. I have candles lit in all of our milk glass and Christmas candle holders; the entire house is awash in soft light. And sitting on the coffee table before me is a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

As many of you know, it is our Christmas day tradition to celebrate at home together – no traveling, no guests – just a special day for us. It was extra special today since it our son’s first Christmas. We woke at a leisurely hour and breakfasted on scrambled eggs and bacon, because that’s what we had a taste for. We lounged around a bit and then dove into our gifts. We celebrate modestly at our house, with just a few well-thought-out gifts for each other. My husband got me a game I’d had my eye on, which will be great fun to play after dinner, as well as a cast iron cornbread pan – which I had to try out right away at lunch. I baked up a pan of cornbread to go with 15 bean soup and it was great. It’s a round pan divided into wedges, so every piece is an end piece! And that’s the best piece of cornbread if you ask me. I gave him some acrylic risers to display his award-winning miniatures pieces as well as a pair of glasses etched with Viking helmets and a bottle of his favorite adult beverage. And for our son – fabric fruit and veggie baskets, a book, an embroidered name plaque that I made and a quilt that I sewed him. In his stocking he received felt booties that I sewed as well as four miniature Sesame Street board books. So a nice, simple gift exchange.

This afternoon we relaxed – played with the baby and his new fabric food set on the floor, read the Saveur that was in my stocking and worked on a little sewing. Husband worked on some of his miniatures. The baby got to nap a lot. I’ve mixed up the dough for Russian teacakes and it’s chilling in the fridge, and I’ve got bread dough for pain d’epi on it’s third rise in the kitchen. In a bit here when I get up, I’m going to make a double batch of snickerdoodles and do a bit more sewing. Maybe have a bath later.

Dinner tonight will be our traditional meal – Norwegian meatballs, mashed potatoes, dill gravy, bread stuffing and ligonberries. And I’ll mix up a little warm glogg to go with it as well. Cookies for dessert, of course. One of the best things about Christmas day has got to be dinner. We’ve been having this one for years (sometimes we add a ham or turkey breast alongside) and it really hits the spot.

Oh, and about that cocoa. You didn’t think I’d mention hot cocoa and leave you all hanging did you? When I want hot cocoa, I do not want some fancy triple chocolate concoction hiding under a pouf of whipped cream. I don’t want peppermint. I don’t want home made marshmallows. I want the Swiss Miss that I grew up with. But I don’t want the preservatives and dairy by-products that pre-packaged drink mixes are laced with. And besides, it’s just as easy to make your own. If you just want one decadent cup, or you want to make a batch for a small crowd, here’s what you’ll need –

Single Mug

2 tablespoons cocoa

4 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

big pinch of salt

2 cups soymilk (or milk, if you can have that)

For a Crowd (serves 6)

3/4 cup cocoa

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 cups soymilk (or milk)

For either quantity, you’ll want to put your cocoa, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan over medium low heat. Slowly whisk in your soymilk until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved and it’s heated through, but don’t let it come to a boil. If you still have little lumps of cocoa, just pour it through a fine-mesh strainer. It happens, and it can be hard to whisk them all out. You could also make it with water instead of soymilk if you’re inclined – it’ll still taste great, though not quite as rich.

I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas and got to spend some good quality time with your loved ones. And fortunately, the holiday isn’t over yet! I encourage you to whip up a batch of tasty hot cocoa this evening and let the good times linger. And hopefully you all get one more free day like I do tomorrow – hot cocoa also makes a nice breakfast beverage treat.

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