HOT CHOCOLATE BAR
BURRRRR. January is cold. Christmas is over. Snow has closed school (again). Kids are stir crazy. Parents are starting to question their sanity. Am I alone? I hope not.
When it is cold outside, I am cold inside AND out. Since moving to the South, I will admit that I have become a bit of a cold weather wuss. I spent the first 24 years of my life in Wisconsin and you'd think I would have thick skin. However, as I explain to most people, I was cold there too.
When I found myself in North Carolina, I had trouble tolerating the heat. Although I had always lived in the cold and did not love being cold, I was not used to the opposite effect of equivalently intense heat. I had to exchange my closet of sweaters, scarves and coats for a lighter wardrobe of tanks, dresses, and shorts. Although I can appreciate any good excuse to shop, I felt a little (LITTLE) sad to be leaving the cold weather behind.
However, the longer I have lived in the South, the less hot it seems and I almost find myself craving some intense heat; I guess that's acclimation for you. With that in mind, when it gets cold here, it feels even MORE cold since I am now used to being hot. I know my family back home is laughing at me and my 15 degree cold when they consider that a warm day in January, but we have already identified that I am now an official cold weather wuss.
So what's a girl to do? When I am cold inside and out, that means it's time to warm up. For most of us parents, a good cup of coffee or tea will do the trick. However, when it comes time to warm up the whole family, nothing beats a cup of hot cocoa.
A few years ago, we implemented a January tradition in our house: The Hot Chocolate Bar. It is exactly what you think it is: A bar completely devoted to the production and consumption of hot cocoa (and additional delicious treats that go with it!). Following Christmas and all the festivities of three months of holidays, January can leave us feeling somewhat flat. I think it is mostly due to the energy and excitement, visitors, and events of all the holiday season that precedes it. While I am usually ready for life to slow back down a bit, I always feel that a little January "pick me up" is in order.
Thus, the Hot Chocoate Bar tradition was born and continues to be something to look forward to as we celebrate winter. You can make a bar as simple or complex as you want. We often rotate what goes on the bar, but the basics stay the same. To craft your own bar, you'll want the following:
- Cocoa Powder
- Dry Milk (or you can skip this and warm up milk for the bar as needed)
- Powdered Sugar
- Marshmallows (we like all sizes!)
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Peppermint Sticks
We always include little cookies or candies that go with the bar so that it is even more festive and fun. When we are ready, we warm up the water or milk, and everyone can create the cocoa to their liking. If you wanted things to be easier, you could just supply pre-made mix as well. You can buy that or you can use this recipe: 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 cups dried milk, and 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Kids add a dash of vanilla to their cocoa and often add a peppermint or cinnamon stick (we had already eaten our King Leo sticks before I could photograph them...off to order more!) When we really get after it, we make our own marshmallows (most because it is super fun and they are really yummy!)
I don't know if you are like me, but I use Amazon for easy ordering, and this cocoa bar is no exception. We keep ourselves well stocked with goodies and ingredients for the bar. Quality matters here since there are so few ingredients, so I recommend using higher quality ingredients such as:
I hope you can carve out a spot in your home to include a hot chocolate bar. We have found it to be a fun way to start the year and a cozy way to warm up. With the amount of snow days we've have this year, we'll be blowing throw our hot chocolate bar at twice the speed. Oh well. Most of the time, hot chocolate is even better on a snow day.
Do have a January tradition? Have you had a hot chocolate bar or station in your house? Was it fun? What did you serve? I'd love to know!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links for products that our family uses for our hot chocolate bar.