Warm up your Valentine’s Day with hot chocolate

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 @ 11:53 AM
Updated: Sunday, January 22, 2012 @ 4:01 PM

Sit. Sip. Savor. This Valentine’s Day, the love is in the cup.

Thought of getting your honey the proverbial box of chocolates? How mundane. Why not stir up some lovin’ with a hot cup of cocoa? You know, that stuff your mom used to make to take the chill off your frozen nose?

Hot chocolate is, well, hot. Again. In our everything-old-is-new-again world, hot chocolate is the retro redo of the recession. For less than a box of Russell Stover’s, you and your sweetheart can sip your way to romance.

But take heart, so to speak: There’s a world of history in that cup of cocoa.



Europeans didn’t come across silky-sweet nougats and chews straight from Willy Wonka when they discovered chocolate in the New World. What they discovered was hot chocolate — a drink considered so potent by the Aztecs that it was reserved for royalty and religious ceremonies. (Montezuma purportedly used it as an aphrodisiac and as, ahem, an old-world Viagra.)

The first people most likely to have cultivated the cacao tree were the Olmecs, from the Southern coast of Mexico, according to food writer Harold McGee. From there it spread to Mayan and Aztec cultures; the latter roasted the beans and ground them for use in hot chocolate. They made a paste of the roasted beans, then added spices and hot water.

Numerous accounts of the drinking of cacahuatl (the Nahuatl, or Aztec, word for hot chocolate) abound: foaming broths mixed with human blood, golden cups filled with froth and spices such as vanilla (another New World discovery), wild honey and red achiote.

The Spanish took the drink back to Spain, and for nearly 200 years did little to expand on it, other than add sugar, cinnamon, chiles, saffron and orange. By then they had adopted the Native American custom of making a paste of the roasted beans and cocoa butter, then drying it on leaves to make tablets. Native Americans used the tablets by adding hot water or atole (a kind of hot gunk made of maize) — the first cocoa mix, so to speak.

By the mid-1600s, hot chocolate had spread from Spain to France and England, where new, innovative “coffeehouses” were selling the drink to droves, especially when someone — and no one really knows who — decided to start making it with hot milk instead of water.

Can you imagine that first taste of hot, foaming froth? The first sip, so hot it almost burns your lips, passing the bittersweetness over your palate until it moves to your belly, where it warms and satisfies like no other drink on earth. No wonder the Aztec and Mayan cultures prized it so much.

Modern versions of hot chocolate stem directly from these early renditions, and coffeehouses from Starbucks to local spots such as the Chocolate Bar in Decatur serve it in style — from mint mocha madness to chile-laced chocolate chai. But it’s basically two recipes from which all this derives: hot cocoa, made from cocoa powder, sugar, milk (or cream) and flavorings; or hot chocolate, made with ganache (a mixture of chocolate, hot cream and butter). The former smacks of memories in front of the fireplace, cup in hand, with marshmallows melting to make a hot foam. The latter is a rich indulgence perfect for adding spices such as vanilla, saffron and chiles.

About those marshmallows — they’re even better when you make your own, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to whip them up, literally.

It might be too late to order those flowers. But a cup of hot chocolate is right on time.

Classic Hot Cocoa

Hands on time: 15 minutes  Total time: 15 minutes  Serves: 4


    3 1/2 cups whole milk 
    1/2 cup half-and-half 
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) 
    3/4 cup granulated sugar 
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean (optional; if using a bean, split the bean in half lengthwise and add it to the liquid. Then scrape the pulp into the mixture and remove the bean.)


In a medium saucepan on high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Make a slurry in a large bowl of the half-and-half, cocoa powder and granulated sugar, creating a paste until the mixture is lump-free. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the paste slowly, whisking constantly. When combined completely, add the vanilla. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat to keep warm.


Per serving: 332 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 9 grams protein, 53 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 40 milligrams cholesterol, 119 milligrams sodium. 


How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 11:28 AM

Cinco de Mayo is Friday, and before everyone gets ready for happy hours and parties, it helps to go in with a plan.

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There are plenty of ways to celebrate the day, which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, during the French-Mexican war.

Make sure you do not do any of the following:

Dress up in sombreros and fake mustaches

There is no need to "dress up" for this day, but if you do, do not wear a sombrero, mariachi suit, serape, fake mustache or anything of the sort if you are not a member of that culture. Those things have historical and cultural significance, and donning them just for a day caricatures and stereotypes people. That's not fun.

Go out and get drunk

There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and doing it socially, but responsibility is key. What is the use in celebrating a day if you get sick or can't remember it?

Make English words Spanish by adding an "o" on the end

Not only does it not make any sense, but by doing this, it makes fun of another language and turns it into a joke. The same goes for plays on the holiday name, so no parties or themes like "Cinco de Drinko."

You can make a margarita cupcake or a fun cocktail, or have dinner at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without doing any of the three above.

Woman turns son's hospital bed into giant Easter basket

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Marine2844/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman turned her son’s hospital bed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, into a giant Easter basket, and social media loved it.

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The hospital posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday. Within 24 hours, the post has nearly 2,000 likes and nearly 400 shares.
“The lengths great parents will go to for their precious children,” one commenter wrote. 

The family is showing support for the post and have commented that they hope this becomes a trend for patients at the hospital every Easter.

Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
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Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

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One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.

Check out the best April Fools' Day 2017 pranks

Published: Thursday, March 30, 2017 @ 3:18 PM
Updated: Saturday, April 01, 2017 @ 3:25 PM

The beginning of April brings a slew of pranks to mark April Fools' Day. Here is a collection of some of the best pranks for 2017.

If you need ideas for your own April Fools’ Day mischief, check out the resources below.

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