Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autumn in a cup

Even though our weather has been really wet and chilly off and on recently, I still haven't felt that little intangible bit of crispness in the air that makes me realize it's officially autumn. All the signs are there, of course. The kids are a month into school, soccer is in full swing and there are pots of mums sitting out in front of my local grocery store.

There are piles of pumpkins, too, leading me to my annual question of who buys pumpkins the middle of September? What must they look like by Halloween? We all love pumpkin, and I cook with it a lot, especially this time of year, but decorative pumpkins six weeks ahead of the fact always puzzles me.

But in our house there's one thing that is always a sure indicator that Fall is right around the corner. It's when I make up a huge bag of hot cocoa mix and stock up on mini-marshmallows. And that's exactly what I did today. (All three of the kids requested it within about twelve hours of each other. Interestingly, I already had the ingredients on my shopping list. Clearly, we're related).

Here's the basic mix that's been around for a zillion years:

25 5/8 ounces nonfat dry milk powder
6 ounces powdered non-dairy creamer
2 cups powdered sugar
16 ounce container instant chocolate drink mix

Everything gets mixed up in a (really big) plastic bag. (I use the same three gallon ziplocs that I keep knitting projects in. This recipe makes a lot). Once it's all ready, throw a couple of tablespoons of the mix into a cup of hot water and you have cocoa in less than a minute. Even better, the kids have been able to do it themselves for years, which makes me pretty happy, too.

There are as many variations on this recipe as there are cooks, and I'm guilty of customizing my mix, too. The original isn't chocolately enough for us, so I mess with it. Here's how I tweak it:

I use a nice, high quality dark chocolate instant chocolate drink mix.

I add a fair amount of plain old cocoa powder to the mix.

Sometimes I use a french vanilla flavored dry creamer.

And I add a bunch of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg.

I've even made it with Splenda instead of sugar, and it works perfectly.

When we're actually adding the mix to the water, sometimes we put in a drop of mint, orange or vanilla extract, or some mini chocolate chips (mint chips are good). Mini-marshmallows are mandatory, and if there happens to be a little cool whip in the house, no one says no. Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top if the mood strikes.

And drink to Fall. My very favorite season.


Rose said...

That's a great recipe. I'm hoping to get productive and make some for small pick me up gifts for some of my coworkers, if you don't mind me using your recipe??


Irene said...

You have me sitting here drooling over my keyboard. No such stuff in the house, of course.

Altaglow said...

I used to make smaller quanities because it used to be ...just you and me......

It's better now with the boys!!

WT said...

It never ceases to amaze me that while Americans generally show disdain for our habit of drinking instant coffee, they are are quite prepared to drink this stuff. We wouldn't dream of drinking hot chocolate with anything other than real full-cream milk.

ped crossing said...

I am not quite ready to give up on summer yet. I still want iced drinks and shorts and cute toenails and all that summery stuff. Give me another month and then maybe. But I will keep that recipe handy. :)

Maggie May said...

It is getting chilly here! Roll on the Spring! My favourite month!

Lil Mouse said...

we do something similar, usually it has to get cold and threaten snow before i give in, but the hubster has already asked for it. he indicated that the baby would really like it if mommy had some. considering the price of all the ingredients, i think i'll hold off a while. but once its really cold i'm going to need something to unblock my throat in the morning. he has his coffee, i'll get hot chocolate. i had a horrible time this spring because we didnt have any mix and i couldnt have coffee or tea. its just wrong.

CrazyCath said...

Sounds deeee-lish!
Lovely warm and comforting on a cooler Autumn evening. Mmmm.

Kaycie said...

My kids love hot drinks and my house is full of tea, coffee, and chocolate drinks year round.

Oh, by the way, I'm one of those people who buy pumpkins in mid September. I've already purchased two small pie pumpkins. They're displayed on my sideboard with gourds on a lovely glass cake stand and on my island in a wooden bowl with butternut and acorn squash. I use all of them in recipes, then buy more for display, usually until it's time to decorate for Christmas.

Akelamalu said...

You're gonna think I'm really strange but I don't like hot chocolate! :(

Devon said...

Yum... I wrote it down and can't wait to try it soon. It has been so hot and no rain since May. I'm hoping to have cool weather soon.

my two cents said...

We are still in need of lots of iced beverages here, but maybe by December we'll be ready for hot chocolate!