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Last week we talked about homemade marshmallows and, more importantly, making the time to slow down and enjoy moments in the kitchen with our family. I know, it’s hard to slow down this time of year. I get it, but it’s so incredibly important for our children.
As we talked about last week, a real food lifestyle is about more than just nourishment. Although nourishing our bodies with real ingredients is so important. A real food lifestyle, which involves the act of making food in our own kitchen with simple ingredients, requires us to slow down, connect with our family, and practice the basic skill of caring for ourselves. These “things”–slowing down, connecting with loved ones, and caring for ourselves–enrich our lives in the very best way.
I’ve been challenged this holiday season to slow down and prioritize spending time with my family in the kitchen and outside the kitchen. I realize that slowing down isn’t just going to happen without some intentionality on my part. I’m not going to wake up one day and my calendar is full of blank space. In order to slow down, I have to make this happen. I have to intentionally slow down and make family time a priority.
To do this, I created an advent calendar for our family over the weekend. We’ve never celebrated advent before (meaning, to prepare for Christmas). Our calendar isn’t anything fancy–it’s made from a string of cards with numbers on one side and an act of kindness or activity of togetherness on the other side.
The advent calendar is my way (my family’s way, I should say) of intentionally slowing down as a family. Some of the activities involve spending time in the kitchen and making homemade treats (like marshmallows and hot chocolate), and others involve non-food related activities (like dancing to our favorite Christmas songs and seeing Christmas lights).
Here’s what I came up with for each day leading up to Christmas…
1: see Christmas lights
2: make a Christmas card for your teacher
3: watch a Christmas movie
4: dance to our favorite Christmas songs
5: make marshmallows
6: make hot chocolate + enjoy it with marshmallows
7: take a bubble bath
8: family game night with popcorn
9: make a favorite Christmas cookie
10: make a card for someone you care about
11: read a Christmas book
12: make beeswax taper candles
13: read The Gingerbread Man Story
14: make gingerbread men
15: donate a toy and book to children in need
16: make a favorite Christmas cookie
17: make a cookie box for your teacher with the cookies we’ve been making (in freezer)
18: pick out an ornament for 2017–at the store
19: give a compliment to each family member
20: make hot chocolate + enjoy it with marshmallows (in the freezer)
21: read the Christmas story
22: family game night with popcorn
23: s’mores outside with a backyard campfire
24: open stockings
Making homemade hot chocolate is a repeat activity on this calendar, along with enjoying homemade marshmallows (which is a bit more time intensive).
Piper, my oldest, is particularly partial to making hot chocolate. While he loves a warm mug of hot cocoa, I think it’s the act of making this special drink that’s won his heart. He looks forward to the process–pouring the ingredients into the Dutch oven, whisking the cacao powder until it’s dissolved in the milk, and waiting for the hot chocolate to reach an ideal drinking temperature.
When he’s grown and on his own, I hope he looks back at this time and remembers the sweet memories we made while making something as simple as homemade hot chocolate. I hope the sweet memories also serve as a reminder to him about how important it is to slow down and create memories with the people you love.
How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate (Stove-Top Recipe)
A simple stove-top hot chocolate, sweetened with maple syrup.
Pour the milk into a Dutch oven, followed by the remaining ingredients: maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together. The cacao powder won't fully dissolve in the milk just yet; it's okay.
Warm the mixture over medium heat on the stove-top, whisking every couple of minutes to fully dissolve the cacao powder in the milk. Once fully dissolved and warm (or to your desired temperature), turn off the heat.
Ladle the hot chocolate into mugs. Enjoy warm.
*It's really easy to tweak this recipe to your desired sweetness. I've found that a minimal amount of maple syrup is perfect for our family since we usually add sweet marshmallows or whipped cream to our hot chocolate. If you'd like a sweeter hot chocolate, simply increase the maple syrup (tasting as you go). The amount of sweetener needed may depend on the milk. Another option is to stir in a few tablespoons of chocolate chips (which most likely are sweetened) to increase the rich chocolate flavor and sweetness. If you'd like to add a different twist to this drink, try adding a couple pinches of cinnamon. There are lots of possibilities for customizing this hot chocolate to your liking.
This recipe may also be reduced, if needed.
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #LIVESIMPLYBLOG. I'd love to see what you make!