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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Tiffany Aaron: Winter weather and cocoa

  • Christmas cocoa
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  • As I gaze out the window of my remote Colorado cabin, I’m reminded about why I love this place.  With the snow covered Rocky Mountains in my backyard, an endless sky of blue overhead, and only the sound of a crackling fireplace and my children playing in the snow to interrupt my thoughts, it’s no wonder that this is my favorite place on earth.   An 18 foot Douglas Fir that once graced the mountainside now nearly touches the rafters of our cathedral living room ceiling.  Nearly every inch of the tree is covered with ornaments that I handmade for my children.  Each year they anxiously await the unveiling of the new ornaments that I have managed to craft in secret.   As I sit here writing and enjoying the comfort of my L.L. Bean cashmere sweater,  the smell of mulled cider and baking cookies fills the room.  I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the frosty windows and smile at what I see.  My perfectly coifed hair, manicured nails, and flawless complexion belie my age and the fact that I am a mother of 5.  I watch my children playing joyfully in the snow.  Snow angels.  Snow men.  Snow ice cream.  Forts.  Castles….
     
    Who am I kidding?  It may have worked for Barbara Stanwyck in “Christmas in Connecticut”, but it would take more than Hollywood magic to work for me.  In reality, I’m sitting here in my anti-muffin-top yoga pants, oversized Montana State hoodie, and no make-up.  My reflection in the mirror this morning shows a new wrinkle or two and dark circles under my eyes.  Let’s not talk about my hair. The house is filled with the sounds of one daughter playing Chopsticks on the piano, my youngest daughter hollering “Mom!  Please tell her to stop playing that song!”, the roaring of Jake Brakes as big trucks tear down the hill in front of our house, and the sound of Curious George’s “oo oo ah ah” coming from the living room.  The half-price Target Christmas tree gracing our living room is filled with child-proof ornaments that I scrambled to round up so we could get the tree up the day after Thanksgiving.  If you look close, you’ll find legless dog and headless snowman ornaments that I can’t bring myself to throw away.  The floor is littered with goldfish crackers that have been “popped” by the thumb of my 18-month old.  Who knew that goldfish crackers exploded?  And, the only smells wafting on the air are those of last night’s spaghetti and the Perfectly Pomegranate Scentsy bar I’m using to try to cover it up. 
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    I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Not even a Klondike bar.  I love my life.  Noise, messes, brutally murdered goldfish crackers and all.  I knew when I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom that I would never attain the world’s idea of a glamorous lifestyle.   I live day to day, week to week:  One meal, naptime, bath time, ball practice, birthday party, snotty nose at a time.  I crave “me” time, and I value the time that is devoted to taking care of my family.  Nothing makes me feel more cherished than when my kids yell “Hey, Mom?  Do I have any clean socks?” Or, “Mom?  I’m hungry!“  Or, “Mom? Can you puleeze make us homemade hot chocolate?”    I recently came up with a recipe for hot chocolate that my kids swear is better than the store bought stuff they used to beg for.  It was a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention moment.  The kids had just finished an intense game of spotlight tag outside and were chilled to the bone.  They asked for hot chocolate and there wasn’t a package to be found in the house.  I looked up a recipe online only to find that I didn’t have all of the ingredients.  I improvised and the result was fantastic. 
     
    To fully enjoy this magnificent hot chocolate, I suggest you pair it with goldfish crackers, dig up a copy of “Christmas in Connecticut”, and cuddle up with your kiddos or grand-kiddos for an evening of Christmas memories.  We all know that no cup of hot chocolate is complete without marshmallows.  So, don’t forget the marshmallows.  Preferably flavored marshmallows!  Side note:  Whatever brilliant mind created flavored marshmallows needs to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize or a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Something.  Peppermint marshmallows are especially delicious when enjoyed alongside hot chocolate...or by themselves…by the bagful.
     
    CHRISTMAS COCOA
    Makes 4 Servings
     
    INGREDIENTS
    ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    ½ cup white sugar
    1 pinch of salt
    1/3 cup boiling water
    3 cups milk (whole or 2% tastes best)
    1 cup flavored liquid coffee creamer (French vanilla, peppermint mocha, or whatever floats your boat)
     
    DIRECTIONS
    1.  Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in saucepan.  Whisk in the boiling water.  Bring to an easy boil while stirring constantly.  Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO SCORCH IT! 
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    2.     Stir in milk and coffee creamer.  Heat until very hot, but do not boil! Top with your favorite marshmallows, marshmallow cream, and sprinkles.  Enjoy!
     
     
    Tiffany Aaron of Quitman writes her "Secret Life of a Betty Crocker Wannabe" column each Wednesday.  Aaron is a recent finalist in the national Pillsbury Bake-Off competition and can be reached at bcwannabe@yahoo.com.

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