Hot Cocoa Bar + Sledding Party

Red Stamp, December 2013


There’s something magical about freshly fallen snow. The world gets quiet and still, like everything has stopped but the swirling of the flakes. It leaves me in awe of the beauty around me. It makes me pause and give thanks. It makes me be still too.

I first discovered this magic in fifth grade, on a class trip to go cross-country skiing. After we found the right sized boots, we went outside to clip our toes into the skis and head off. And just as we did, it started to gently snow. As we swooshed into the woods, we were suddenly surrounded by the glittering silence. It was peaceful and bewitching; it made my fifth grade heart soar, because I had never experienced something quite so beautiful.

Fast-forward eight years, and it was my first winter at college. That December I found myself finally settling into a group of friends I felt at home with, who loved the same things I loved and were the truest of kindred spirits. One Friday, right before finals, it had been snowing all day, those thick, fluffy, December snowflakes. That night, several of us girls decided to go on an adventure, in search of hot cocoa and whipped cream. We piled on our boots and hats and puffy coats, and headed out into the winter wonderland. As we walked, we were hit by an un-earthly stillness, the kind that makes you feel separate from the rest of the world, like you are in your own little snow globe. We trooped along snowy sidewalks, laughing, reflecting on the semester, discussing our favorite things, and singing our favorite Christmas carols. Though I had felt the warmth of friendship from these girls in the past many weeks, it was that night that I knew these would be my forever-friends. The snow irrevocably brought us together. Like magic.

I believe that a jaunt through the freshly fallen snow is good for the soul. It causes you to pause amidst the busyness of life and notice the beauty around you. It conjures up contemplations and brings hearts together. So, this winter, I encourage you to go outside after a new snow, breathe in that frosty air and see the world a bit differently.

And, I speak from experience, these walks are always best when accompanied by some steaming hot chocolate. In fact, why don’t you make a party of it! Gather some kindred spirits, put on your warmest clothes, and load up a sleigh full of your favorite hot cocoa ingredients for an unexpected and sweet Hot Cocoa Bar + Sledding Party! It’s easy to put together at the first sight of snowfall for a spur-of-the moment winter gathering. So, add a little more magic + surprise to your winter days, and share your photos with us when you do!

Original Cocoa (Makes 4 cups)

Ingredients ::
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half, divided

Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan; stir in boiling water. Continue until sugar is dissolved. Bring cocoa mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes; stir milk and 1/2 cup half-and-half into water mixture. Cook and stir just until hot, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in remaining half-and-half.

Chocolate Hazelnut
Add 1 Tbs chocolate hazelnut spread to cocoa mixture.

Mexican Hot Cocoa
Add 1 tsp + 1 dried chili pepper to cocoa mixture, boiling for 2 minutes, and remove before serving.

Dairy Free
Switch out milk and half-and-half for 4 cups Vanilla Flavored Almond Milk.

Optional Toppings
Caramel Bars
Mint Chocolate Chips
Butterscotch Chips
Peppermint Bark
Flavored Candy Canes
Giant Marshmallows