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My day has involved some frustration.  My bike lock got wet in the rain, and has now dried and jammed itself shut.  A solid dose of WD40 will probably fix it, but still, irritating.  There is basically no food in the house; a side effect of being gone on and off for most of the month.  And the recurring irritation of our house not really being insulated at all ,so the second the heater shuts off, the temperature plummets, and the heat comes back on.

I really hate being cold.  I live in the SF Bay Area, so it’s not like it gets all *that* cold, but it feels really cold because it’s damp and, like I said, the houses aren’t insulated.  So my house feels like an ice box, and I’m grouchy about having to function in it.  Actually, fairly soon, we’re having contractors come out and insulate our house and add weather stripping and a few other energy efficiency bits that I’m quite excited about, so hopefully I won’t have to spend another winter pissed off at the long-dead-builders of my house.

All of this build up is to give this next bit some context: Hot chocolate can cure many many ills.  Last week, I was at my monthly tabletop game, and all of us were freezing; our host’s house suffers the same problem mine does, with the added injustice of the heater not really working at all.  One of his housemates came home a couple of hours into the game, and asked “Who wants hot chocolate?”  All of us wanted hot chocolate.

I think of hot chocolate as a thing children drink.  I do quite like it, but I don’t think about it most of the time.  I’m usually drinking coffee (iced, actually, even in winter) or sometimes hot tea.  Hot chocolate just doesn’t occur to me.  So when we made hot chocolate in the kitchen full of gamers, it was the first time I’d had it in a while.  If you don’t count the times I’ve dumped hot chocolate mix into my hot coffee, then it’s probably been several years.

We used a cheap powdered mix and hot water, and it was *still* delicious.  Warm and creamy and comforting and perfect.  And I’ve been thinking about it ever time I’ve stepped outside for the last week and change.  So today, freezing my ass off in my kitchen and trying to avoid going into my even-colder-bedroom to do laundry, it finally occurred to me to actually make some hot chocolate.

I think I do actually have some of those hot chocolate mix packets kicking around; I like to take them camping to help make campfire coffee a little better.  They’re not really very good, though, and I had better options in my pantry.

As it turns out, making hot chocolate from scratch is actually pretty easy.  All you need is milk, cocoa powder and a little sugar for a basic but excellent hot chocolate.  I like to add a little cinnamon and almond extract to mine, and a tiny pinch of salt to dress it up.  Here’s my basic recipe:

1.5 cups milk (dairy or non, whichever you like)

1-2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder, depending on how strong you like yours

1-3 teaspoons of sugar, to taste

very small pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small pan, and, stirring constantly, heat on low until steaming, but not yet bubbling.  Pour into a mug and serve.

Your cocoa powder will float on top and look like it’s never going to mix in while the milk is cold, but will dissolve nicely once it all warms up.  If you want to add vanilla or almond extract, add it at the end, just before serving.  Powdered cinnamon will add great flavor, but a slightly gritty texture; you can add a cinnamon stick at the beginning to get good flavor without the grit.  Also try adding burbon, or peppermint schnaaps, or a candy cane.  You can also add a few chunks of dark chocolate at the beginning to make it really extra rich.

All together, this usually takes less than 10 minutes, and it’s SO good.  I get the convenience of those packets, but seriously, this is quick, easy and much much better.