This time of year there are few treats quite as enticing as a cup of hot chocolate. Which is probably why Coach Stacy recently volunteered to provide hot chocolate for the entire city of Golden, Colorado during its recent Christmas Candlelight Walk.
“Do you have any idea how much hot chocolate we’re talking about here? I asked.
“Probably enough for about 10,000 people,” Coach responded nonchalantly.
“And just how do you plan to accomplish this? I countered.
“No clue,” Coach replied, “since you’re the one who’ll be making it.”
But of course.
Fortunately for the City of Golden, Coach recruited two other ladies, Sue and Phyllis from her fitness classes, to supervise me in this effort. Because as it happens, preparing 60 gallons of hot chocolate requires a substantial degree of kitchen savvy, highly developed organizational skills, the ability to convert standard volume measurements, and Herculean strength, none of which I actually possess.
Sue played the role of coordinator. She grasped early on the fact that we not only needed over-sized pots for brewing the beverage, but also large containers for transporting the concoction and keeping it toasty warm throughout the cold evening. Sue drove all over the region collecting 24-quart stockpots and 10-gallon hot drink dispensers.
Phyllis was brilliant as the mathematician. On the afternoon of the event, the three of us were gathered in Coach’s kitchen, preparing for the rigors the hot chocolate project, only to find that the equations were quite complex: How many cups of Swiss Miss per 24-quart pot? How many 24-quart pots per 10-gallon dispenser? How many 10-gallon containers for 10,000 people? As a trained librarian, I of course, Googled the dilemma. My surfing ultimately landed me smack dab on the Swiss Miss website which eventually yielded a pop-up window, featuring Kenny, a Swiss Miss customer service representative, eagerly attempting to be of assistance.
Kenny: Hello! How can I help you today?
Me: Oh hi. We’re making hot chocolate for 10,000 people and trying to figure out how many scoops we’d need for a 24-quart batch.
Kenny: What are you using?
Me: Huh? What do you mean? We’re using a big pot and 24 quarts of water.
Kenny: No, I’m sorry I mean which product are you using?
Me: Oh. We’re using Swiss Miss.
Kenny: Which Swiss Miss product???
Me: Um……the hot chocolate?
Kenny: CLASSIC, DIET, DARK CHOCOLATE, MILK CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE TRUFFEL, CARAMEL HOT CHOC………
Me: Oh I get it. We’re using the Classic Milk Chocolate.
Kenny: Okay, you’ll need 32 packets for 24 quarts.
Me: No, wait. We don’t have the packets. We have the industrial-sized canisters of Swiss Miss. We’re trying to figure how many scoops of it to use. Did I mention we’re making enough for 10,000 people?
At this point, Kenny went away for quite a long while. I was beginning to worry that he’d thrown in the towel and called it a day. Meanwhile, Phyllis was chomping at the bit to get cooking. She used to be an Army nurse, after all, and trained to forge ahead in the midst of chaos and danger. Finally, Kenny returned.
Kenny: Our site doesn’t handle vending questions. You’ll need to go to our vending site. Have a nice day.
I stared blankly at the iPad screen for a minute or so.
“Oh for God’s sake,” Phyllis muttered. “Someone give me a calculator.”
Within minutes Phyllis had determined that we needed to shovel 13 scoops of Swiss Miss into the 24-quart pots (my job – I was responsible for the scooping, my sole responsibility at the hot chocolate factory that day), and just like that we were off to the races. Several hours later, Coach’s Herculean strength was employed and with Sue’s help she heaved all of the 10-gallon dispensers of hot chocolate into SUVs, which transported the beverages to their final destination at the Golden Visitors’ Center for the evening’s festivities.
And I have to say the hot chocolate booth was a popular attraction that night in Golden – all 60 gallons guzzled. Eat your heart out, Kenny.
Now, as it turns out, hot chocolate is quite good for you, provided you pass on the heavy whipping cream and jet-puffed jumbo marshmallows. For one thing, hot chocolate contains flavonoids, which help to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It also contains twice the antioxidants as those derived from red wine and triple those found in green tea. Since antioxidants help protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals as well as prevent cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration, our advice where hot chocolate is concerned is to drink up. You can reduce the calorie count by using skim milk or soymilk. And naturally, hot chocolate prepared with dark chocolate, will help lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones, and lighten your mood.
Ready for your cup of cheer? Here are a few unique and healthy recipes for you to try:
Maple Cocoa (from www.mnn.com)
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
Combine ingredients in a medium pot and warm on medium-low heat, whisking until frothy and hot.
Healthy Hot Cocoa (from www.health.com)
1 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 packet calorie-free sweetener
Heat milk until boiling. Remove from heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sweetener.
Low-Fat Mexican Hot Chocolate (from www.food.com)
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/3 cup granular Splenda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups low-fat milk
Combine cocoa, Splenda and cinnamon in a jar, seal and shake to combine. Whisk milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until hot. Place two tablespoons of the cocoa mixture into 4 mugs, pour in the warm milk and stir to dissolve. Add some milk froth to each mug and then top with remaining milk.