Get cozy on the couch as you warm up with this indulgent hot cocoa that’s pepped with smooth peppermint and vanilla extract. If you love chocolate and peppermint, this will become your favorite hot cocoa beverage. Melting dark chocolate chip morsels of at least 72% cacao content and using nonfat or low-fat milk, creates a rich hot cocoa that far surpasses any mix.  This holiday classic is a lightened-up version with about only half the calories of regular hot cocoa but still tastes every bit as chocolaty and luscious.

Why use chocolate chip morsels with at least 72% cacao content? It’s good for your heart health. Flavonols found in dark chocolate puts it head and shoulders above white and milk chocolate.  Research suggests these antioxidant compounds may increase vascular dilation and improve blood flow, reducing the risk of heart disease.  It’s believed flavonols work by increasing the levels and action of nitric oxide, a naturally occurring compound in the body that acts as a vasodilator, increases insulin sensitivity, and slows down the atherosclerotic process.

Other heart health benefits dark chocolate provides include lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol.  Studies have shown that consuming about one ounce of dark chocolate a day can reduce blood pressure while it has also been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 10 percent.

Besides protecting your heart, dark chocolate has also been shown to stimulate endorphin production – no wonder we always are in a happy mood when eating chocolate! Along with that good news, dark chocolate also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant in addition to theobromine and caffeine which are stimulants.

Photo taken by Cheryl Mussatto

Cozy Peppermint Hot Cocoa – Makes 3 one-cup servings

Nutrition per serving: Calories – 170; Protein – 9 grams; Total Fat – 4.5 grams; Saturated Fat – 2.5 grams; Cholesterol – 5 milligrams; Total Carbohydrate – 25 grams; Total Sugar – 24 grams; Sodium – 145 milligrams

Ingredients:

3 cups skim or low-fat milk

4 teaspoons sugar

¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of Kosher salt – helps bring out the flavor of the chocolate but can be omitted

¼ cup dark chocolate chip morsels – preferably of at least 72% cacao content

Directions:

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the milk is hot and starting to steam.
  2. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in sugar, peppermint and vanilla extracts, salt and dark chocolate chip morsels.
  3. Continue to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Pour into mugs and garnish with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.
Categories: Recipes

Cheryl Mussatto

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia, found on Amazon in both ebook and paperback editions.

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