Get ready to celebrate the timeless cold-weather beverage on National Hot Chocolate Day later this month on Jan. 31.

 According to nationaldaycalendar.com, researchers are still looking into the origins of this day.

 Hot chocolate is a beverage made with ground chocolate, heated milk or water, and sugar. In America, we often use the terms hot chocolate and hot cocoa interchangeably. However, the two beverages are different.

Cocoa vs Hot Chocolate

 We make hot cocoa with cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar. We’re able to do this thanks to a process developed by father and son chemists, Casparus van Houten Sr. and his son, Coenraad Johannes.

 For the thicker, more flavorful beverage, we make hot chocolate from ground chocolate containing cocoa butter. It is also called drinking chocolate. Hot chocolate has also been around longer than hot cocoa.

 In the early 1800s, Van Houten Sr. developed a process to separate the cocoa solids from the butter. His son, Johannes, made those fats more soluble in water. Together their processes made cocoa powder possible.

 But before then, everyone drank hot chocolate. This thicker, creamier beverage often offered medicinal benefits for stomach ailments during the 19th century. In fact, long before the beverage’s popularity in Victorian times, it served in ceremonial culture.

 However, humans have been drinking chocolate for a long time. The Mayans likely created the first chocolate beverage 2000 years ago. The Aztecs also included a cocoa beverage as an essential part of their culture by 1400 AD. When Europeans began exploring Central and South America, explorers brought chocolate and the beverage back with them to Europe from Mexico.

Make it and benefit

 Hot chocolate can be enjoyed in a variety of combinations, topped with whipped cream or marshmallows. Sometimes a sprinkle of cinnamon or a dash of peppermint makes the chocolate extra special. In the United States, many people enjoy an instant form of hot chocolate. It is made with hot water or milk and a packet containing mostly cocoa powder, sugar, and dry milk.

 There are health benefits to drinking hot chocolate. Cocoa contains significant amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. Studies have shown the flavonoids in chocolate may have a positive effect on arterial health and memory.

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalHotChocolateDay

 Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. You can make it with dark or milk chocolate. While you’re at it, try experimenting, too. Add some cinnamon or other flavors to your chocolate. Of course, inviting a friend to join you is essential to the celebration, too. Try adding these toppings — whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and candied fruit

Creamy Hot Cocoa

Serves 4

Ingredients:

• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• ¾ cup white sugar

• 1 pinch salt

• 1/3 cup boiling water

• 3 ½ cups milk

• ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

• ½ cup half-and-half cream

Directions:

Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between four mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature. Per Serving: 310 calories; protein 9.3g; carbohydrates 52.8g; fat 8.7g; cholesterol 28.3mg; sodium 102.1mg.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Serves four

A combination of cocoa powder and chocolate chips make this hot chocolate extra flavorful and delicious.

Ingredients

• 4 cups milk (whole or 2 percent)

• ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• ¼ cup granulated sugar

• ½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar

• ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Place milk, cocoa powder and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until warm (but not boiling). Add chocolate chips and whisk constantly until the chocolate chips melt and distribute evenly into the milk. Whisk in vanilla extract, serve immediately.

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