The real deal

When I realized that the cocoa I bought on sale after Christmas was just cocoa with mini-chocolate chips it was a test of my memory for sure. I could not just add milk or water and have hot chocolate. I had to do something more. There certainly are drawbacks to wearing glasses only for reading. If I do not dig them out I sometimes bring home something that I had not intended to purchase.

The can said that it made ten cups of cocoa. That much I understood. The part I did not understand was that this stuff was just plain cocoa meaning I had to add other things before it made hot chocolate.

I remembered the first time I ever made cocoa from scratch, if you will. Grandma won a can of Drostes cocoa from one of the radio quiz shows that she liked to play. She knew how to use the stuff, but I was new at it. I believe there were instructions on the can so we were not entirely at a loss. The directions said to add some sugar as well as some of the cocoa. Then, you added a little of the hot milk and made a paste. Once the paste was formed you added it to the pan and you had some wonderful hot chocolate.

My find was something like that. The package said there were mint chips with the cocoa powder. Now, I have used cocoa powder lots of times to make brownies and other chocolate treats. All I had to do now was come up with my method of making the powder into hot chocolate. I experimented a bit to see how it worked. The grandchildren were thrilled. They loved the light mint flavor as well as the resulting cup of cocoa.

I made the cups of cocoa like they used to make them in the restaurants I frequented as a teenager. I shook up my can of whipped cream and put a dollop on top of each cup. What a luxurious treat! There were two restaurants that made cocoa like that. If I went to Candyland that was how it was served. West Drug store also served it like that. Both places also put a couple little packages of saltines on each saucer. When we shopped we always stopped for something to eat. If the ladies had a cup of tea or coffee I had hot chocolate.

Another day I made the hot chocolate and immersed a giant marshmallow in each cup. While the children enjoyed that they had to drink slow enough to allow the marshmallow to melt a little bit. I had those marshmallows because I thought we would have a campfire at the end of the summer and make s’mores. Since we did not have a campfire I had both big marshmallows and Hershey bars.

Everyone was sad when the canister of cocoa with mint was gone. I found a package of chocolate chips that were mint flavored in one of my baking crocks. One afternoon I again experimented. I put some of those chips into the milk while it was heating. Unlike the little chips in the mix that did not melt these melted away perfectly. I made my cocoa paste and we enjoyed more mint hot chocolate.

The weather has certainly been conducive to having hot chocolate for an afterschool snack. We finished my bargain purchase and have even made more. I had forgotten how good the real stuff tasted. When I was growing up my usual breakfast during the winter months was cocoa and toast. I loved to dunk the toast into the cocoa and eat it. Even now every once in a while I have hot cocoa and toast for a light supper.

During this day and age we are all used to the convenient packets or the canister of cocoa mix that you just have to add water to. Even the children can make that. A little hot water from the microwave and you are all set.

I have also made my own cocoa mix just to have on hand. I always had some of that in the cupboard when the neighborhood children went to play in the snow. Often the adults participated as well. There are movies of us sliding on what we referred to as the gravel pit. There were no barbed wire fences there so it was the perfect place to slide. There was just enough of an incline to make life interesting. We had a wooden toboggan that came to us as a Christmas present. That held our whole family when the children were smaller.

One movie that we have shows my husband skiing. The skis we had were not fancy. They were supposed to have things that went around your boots, but those were long gone. You just had to place your feet on the ski and hope for the best. In the movie one ski got away and went down the slope on its own!

Everyone was ready for cocoa when we finished playing in the snow. Often Hickory Heights was the kitchen of choice because it was midway between the neighbors. Usually I had a sweet treat to offer with the cocoa as well. If nothing sweet was available I put the saltines on the table and those disappeared.

Do not get me wrong. I have used those little packets, too, but I must say I prefer the real deal with milk and the trimmings.

We may as well enjoy the snow since it seems to be here to stay. Actually, this weekend was the first time we plowed since Christmas. The snow has been light but we have certainly had cold weather!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at