It seems the straggling days of summer are gone and fall is here.
The sky is hazy and gray. The green has disappeared, replaced by red and orange. Sidewalks are lined with the "helicopters" of the maple. The air ... the air has a certain chill.
And I'm wearing my first sweater of the season and a pair of brown cords though I'd much rather be on the couch in an oversized pair of sweats, drinking a hot chocolate.
Here are some of my favorite (no-guilt) twists to enjoy hot chocolate. With all of these ideas, I start with a packet of Diet Swiss Miss and use half unsweetened almond milk and half water. However, you could use any mix and whatever water-milk combo you like best.
Pump up the Pumpkin. Add 2 tablespoons pumpkin and a hefty dash of pumpkin pie spice. I usually pour in about a quarter-cup of the liquid, stir and add pumpkin. Add another quarter-cup of liquid and return the mug to the microwave for about 45 seconds to warm the pumpkin.
On top of the Andes. Add a drop or two (no more) of mint extract to the hot chocolate mix and add the liquid. Top with whipped cream and crushed Andes mints if you are feeling sassy. You could also sub out the mint extract with a creme de menthe syrup, like this one from DaVinci.
Samoan retreat. Add a drop or two of coconut extract to the mix and add the liquid. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. In place of the caramel sauce, you could add a caramel syrup to the mix, like this one from Torani.
Almond joy. Add a couple drops of almond extract to the mix and replace almond milk with coconut milk, such as Silk.
S'more please. Top with Marshmallow Fluff, drizzle of chocolate sauce and pieces of graham cracker. I would recommend using a non-diet mix for this as the diet has an after taste that the extracts masked.
Hot chocolate mix tip: I mastered the following method while waiting tables at Cracker Barrel. Add just a quarter-cup of the water/milk to the mix and stir vigorously with a fork. Gradually add the remainder of the water/milk, continuing to stir with a fork. It might seem weird but it makes sure the mix is well incorporated and prevents a mess.
How do you like your hot chocolate?