Late last week a winter storm swooped in over Portland and we were snowed in for a couple days. It was only a few inches, but snow isn’t a regular enough occurrence here for streets to be plowed or salted overnight. Instead, everything just sort of shuts down until the rain washes it all away. It’s pretty magical seeing everything clean and still, knowing you officially don’t have to put on real pants for the day. We used that time at home to listen to some Christmasy records, finally wrap presents and we even took Bisou out in the snow for the first time. She loved feeling the freshly fallen snow on her paws and seeing chubby winter squirrels running through the trees right above her (hop over to Instagram for some Bisou in the snow pictures). On the flip side of the snow storm was our dwindling food supply. We ran out of leafy greens and bread after the first day, and I didn’t have the stuff to make gingerbread cookies to go along with the music and gift wrapping. I did have the chocolate and milk on hand to whip up some rich and silky lavender hot chocolate though, and it fit the bill!
I grew up drinking hot chocolate from a packet, and while those little marshmallows do bring back fond memories, hot chocolate from scratch is so much tastier and free of mysterious additives. I usually make it with a dark, high quality chocolate bar chopped into pieces. I couldn’t get to the store though, so I swapped in the semisweet chocolate chunks I had in the pantry. Lesson learned: you can use just about any chocolate and not go wrong. You can use any milk too, dairy or otherwise, but whole milk does give the hot chocolate a rich, creamy quality that’s hard to top. Dairy milk is also the easiest to infuse, which is a plus if you want a lot of lavender flavor in your hot chocolate. My favorite part of this recipe is that it can be tailored to any consistency: use a bit of chocolate for a silky and light hot chocolate, and a whole lot for an extra rich sipping chocolate. Continue Reading
Despite growing up in the cold, damp Pacific Northwest and spending a few years in the Midwest for college, I’ve never gotten used to the cold that hits every year around this time. While other people are leaving the house in light sweaters, I’m in triple layers with a scarf and wool socks and I’m still shivering. We’re spending our first cold season in our new place, which happens to be older and thus full of drafts, and now I can’t seem to stay warm inside, either. So what to do all winter long, when it’s so cold you can’t get cozy no matter how many chunky knits you’ve piled on? You warm yourself from the inside out, my friends. I’m convinced that nothing will thaw a freezing person more efficiently than imbibing a steaming mug of seasonal spice with a splash of liquor. You might be already be familiar with this drink’s official name: the hot toddy.
Traditionally made with hot water, lemon, honey and spices mixed with some of that liquor I mentioned before, the hot toddy is a drink made for chilly, rainy days. It will even help you nurse a cold; when you’re under the weather, what could be more soothing than warm liquids, honey and, of course, that bit of alcohol to dull your aches and pains? This hot toddy is a seasonal twist on the original recipe thanks to my current favorite Stash tea, maple apple cider. Substituting tea for plain old hot water gives a hot toddy loads more flavor – in this case, apple, cinnamon, caramel, maple and a hint of hibiscus – so I highly recommend this particular blend. Stash has been a family favorite for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I’d spend holidays at my grandma’s house sorting her vast assortment of Stash teas by color, and when I was old enough to appreciate the tea for its flavor I’d regularly deplete my mom’s Stash reserves of everything minty. With the holidays approaching I’m looking forward to serving this hot toddy to my family and making more memories to reflect on whenever I sip my morning Stash. Read on for the recipe! Continue Reading