By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
A rich cup of hot chocolate is the perfect way to warm up on a frosty day. During the winter months, give a festive jar of homemade cocoa mix for any occasion, from a holiday to a birthday. In a pinch, you can dress up store-bought mix by adding a couple of stir-in ingredients for a welcome present someone of any age would enjoy.
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder (name-brand milk dissolves better)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until thoroughly combined. Place the mix in a canning jar with stir-in ingredients on top. For the stir-ins, pick miniature chocolate chips and/or marshmallows with one other stir-in item per jar. (More than one would be overpowering, unless they share the same flavor, such as crushed candy canes and mint flavored chips or peanut butter chips and miniature peanut butter cups.) All of these are available in the baking aisle:
• Crushed Andes mint candy
• Crushed Heath candy
• Crushed candy canes
• White chocolate chips
• Butterscotch chips
• Mint flavored chips
• Peanut butter chips
• Miniature peanut butter cups
• Miniature M&Ms candies
• Chocolate or other sprinkles
• Flavored powdered coffee creamer
• Cinnamon candies (look among the sprinkles)
You may find some other tasty mix-ins, but the key to success is using small items that melt in hot liquid.
You could also enclose in a plastic bag and tie to the side of the jar with a ribbon:
• Chocolate “spoon” formed by pouring melting coating chocolate wafers into a spoon shape on waxed paper (allow to completely harden before bagging). You can also add sprinkles to the bowl of the spoon before it hardens.
• Five-inch lengths of cinnamon sticks dipped in coating chocolate.
• Candy canes dipped in coating chocolate.
• Large marshmallows dipped in coating chocolate. You can also add sprinkles to the chocolate before it hardens.
Doll up your jar by inserting a photo, pretty fabric, wrapping paper between the jar ring and lid. Or upcycle used greeting cards, postcards or toy circular photo. Tie a ribbon around the jar below the jar’s rim.
Don’t forget to include the directions. Copy them onto a small notecard and tie to the side with a ribbon: Combine ¼ cup of mix with 1 cup of hot water. Stir well.
Consider giving the jar in a basket with a pair of mugs or a set of coasters. You could also box it up with a whole bag of extra marshmallows, which can help cushion the jar against breakage. Enclose the above recipe printed on a card so your recipient can make his own to enjoy and make for someone else.