DIY Hot Chocolate Mix

Perhaps the quintessential cold-weather beverage, hot chocolate has long been a favorite of mine. I drink it much less often as an adult since I prefer to eat my calories rather than drink them, but on a cold and snowy day, hot chocolate is still a delicious way to warm up. These days I find most of the store-bought mixes to be far too sweet, and so I set out to make my own.

All the popular Pinterest items used non-fat milk powder, so I gave that a shot. I had reservations on how well this would work because it’s the milk fat that makes proper hot chocolate into the creamy delight we look for. As expected, the non-fat versions tasted far too watery to me. I knew I wanted to include milk powder since the goal was not to have to heat up milk every time I wanted a cup, and so I checked to see if whole milk powder was a thing that exists.

Helpful, Amazon has my back and I promptly ordered what I presume is basically a lifetime supply. Fortunately it is shelf-stable for quite a while (or you can freeze it) so I had no qualms about order it. After a couple iterations to get the cocoa:sugar ratio down, I landed on my perfect concoction. Not too sweet, very chocolatey, and pleasantly creamy without the hassle of heating milk or the requirement to have a splash of heavy cream on hand. (We almost always do, but I realize the average person does not buy heavy whipping cream by the half-gallon.)

This recipe easily scales, so you can make less for a small amount or scale it up and give it away as gifts. Add a cute jar and a tag with instructions and you have a wonderful small token of appreciation. It keeps for at least 6 months (that’s how long my batch lasted) so you can stock up for the season ahead. All the convenience of those pre-made mixes and the ability to tailor the amount of sugar to your preferences; a win-win if you ask me.

DIY Hot Chocolate Mix

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients

for mix
3/4 cup whole milk powder
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder (regular works okay too)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar2

to prepare hot chocolate
12 oz boiling water
3-4 Tablespoons mix

Directions

  1. For the mix: whisk together milk powder, cocoa powder, and sugar until well combined. Store in an airtight container.
  2. For hot chocolate: Add 3-4 tablespoons mix to the bottom of a large mug.
  3. Pour in 1-2 ounces of boiling water, and mix until well combined. (A handheld milk frother works great for this.)
  4. Pour in remaining boiling water, and continue to mix until completely combined.
  5. Enjoy immediately with your favorite toppings. (And a splash of Baileys, for the adults.)

Notes

You must use whole milk powder, the non-fat stuff is useless. Whole milk powder is the key to creaminess without having to heat milk every time you want to prepare a cup of hot chocolate.

I prefer my hot chocolate a little less on the sweet side; if you like yours more like a store-bought version, use 3/4 -1 cup sugar .

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Blackberry Peach Smoothie

Although I mostly stick with my go-to peanut butter and banana smoothie, I occasionally am interested in a more summery flavor profile. Typically I concoct one from whatever happens to be my in freezer at the time, which is usually a mixture of bananas, berries, and melons, and maybe a cucumber or two. Blackberries are far and above my favorite berry but as they are quite strong in flavor I like to pair them with something a bit more mild. Bananas are excellent for this, of course, but in late summer peaches are easily my ideal complement.

This is another excellent smoothie for any time of day, an equally delicious way to start your day as it is to end it. With plenty of fresh fruit and a hidden veggie boost, its flavor is reminiscent of a cobbler but much lower in sugar. The spinach muddies the color a bit, but otherwise it’s not even noticeable. Ground oatmeal makes a nice thickener as well as keeping you fuller longer, and my trusty dash of cinnamon rounds it out nicely. If you prefer yours a bit sweeter, add a dollop of pure maple syrup.

It’s not necessary to peel your peaches before freezing them, but make sure they are in small enough chunks to fit in your blender. I typically cut mine into eighths since that’s the easiest way to pit them anyway. Slice and pit a whole tray at once and then arrange on a piece of parchment paper to freeze. Once frozen you can transfer them to a Ziploc or other storage without fear of them sticking into one giant clump of peach. I use this method to freeze all my fruits and veggies for smoothies (and oatmeal) – everything from sliced bananas and berries to cucumber and zucchini. It takes a little prep time, but it’s well worth the convenience later.

Sweet peaches and tart blackberries come together in combination perfect for those later days of summer when both are overly abundant. Whether you’re buying from Costco or local stand, or lucky enough to be picking them yourself, it’s a delicious way to use up excess fruits that are maybe a little beyond the raw-eating prime. With these last few weeks of toasty weather ahead, you should have ample time to give this a whirl.

Blackberry Peach Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe peach (pitted, sliced, and frozen)1
1/4 cup blackberries, frozen
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)

1 – 2 cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
1-2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (optionally reserving a peach slice and two berries for garnish) and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

Race Day Smoothie

About five years ago I discovered my favorite green smoothie, which I basically lived on during an extremely hot and smokey summer in Helena. I was admittedly liberal with the peanut butter and a bit light on the spinach, but overall it was a decently healthy dinner option for those days I didn’t want to eat anything warmer than ice.

Over the years I’ve lightened up my original recipe, opting for coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s and substituting PBFit peanut butter powder instead of the real deal. Peanut butter powder may sound silly, but in baking or smoothies I actually prefer it over the original. The peanut flavor is a bit more concentrated and it really lowers the amount of calories and fat. I’m not a calorie counter by any means, but it makes it much easier to create a snack-sized version while keeping all that wonderful peanut flavor.  I’ve also probably doubled the amount of spinach I use, since I’m now inclined to add it to almost anything from smoothies to soup to scrambled eggs, and it’s definitely my preferred salad base. The spinach only vaguely modifies the flavor but gives a big nutrient boost – presuming you don’t mind the crazy green color. I admit it’s a bit off-putting to the uninitiated but I’m so used to it that this smoothie without spinach now looks and tastes strange to me.

During the summer and fall I participate in tons of running events, where you have to get up stupid early in the morning in order to make it to the start line or bus pickup on time. My usual race day breakfast (or really any day breakfast) is oatmeal with banana and PBFit, but on the days it’s too hot for that I opt for this smoothie instead. They contain basically the same ingredients, with the smoothie having that extra spinach boost. It goes down much easier when it’s already 75 degrees or more, and takes just as little time to prep in the morning.

I like to pre-grind the oatmeal so there aren’t large chunks clogging up my straws, but it’s not strictly necessary if you have a really quality blender. The oatmeal not only adds some calories and makes the smoothie more filling, but I really enjoy the hearty flavor it adds to the palate. It’s not overwhelming but reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, and is still pleasant for people who necessarily enjoy oatmeal on its own.

This smoothie tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake but is a much healthier way to start the day. With the addition of oatmeal it sticks with you for quite a while, making it perfect for both pre-race and post-race. It’s also a pretty legit dinner for those days you’re feeling lazy or in a hurry but still want something on the healthy end of the spectrum, and your boyfriend isn’t around to insist smoothies are not a real dinner.

Race Day Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 Tbsp PBFit
1+ cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  For a lighter smoothie I just leave out the oatmeal; this is great for the days you want a lighter breakfast or a healthier snack/dessert later in the day. But for an entrée smoothie the oatmeal adds great flavor and makes it a lot more filling!

2  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

Bulletproof Coffee (Pods)

One of the biggest struggles of long distance running is nutrition. It’s a constant experiment to see what works best for your body. Running on an empty stomach vs with a light snack; fueling mid-run; post-workout energy boosts; all a matter of preference and can vary by day and type of run.

Running

For me, I can run on an empty stomach (minus coffee…I do love coffee) if it’s a shortish morning run and I don’t have a lot of time to kill between waking up and starting to run. Contrastingly, on half marathon race days I need to eat a pretty full meal to keep me satiated but not overstuffed, and even then I often need 100-200 calories during the race. As I become a stronger and faster runner I find I need less to keep me going, but it’s still something I play with a lot during training runs or the “off”-season.

Once per week I run up a set of hills near the office. The usual route is only 4.3 miles (unless I add onto it to align with a training plan) but if I push myself it’s a pretty challenging 40+ minutes. I’ve discovered I *can* run the course without eating but it’s a better workout if I have a little something. I’ve tried a number of the standard suggestions (a piece of toast; banana and peanut butter; etc) but they all made me feel a bit heavy and I never felt like I found *the* item that works the best for me. Enter: bulletproof coffee.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Although I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, I often read about them out of curiosity or to see if there are any pieces I want to pull into my own life. Bulletproof coffee comes from the Bulletproof Diet, which is a high-fat and low-carb situation. I was not inclined to take up the diet itself, but after reading about the coffee and people who had tried it, it intrigued me as maybe a good pre-run snack.

Since I always drink coffee before running anyway, this kills two birds with one stone by getting my calories and my coffee all in one. Since it’s liquid, it doesn’t make my stomach feel heavy, and the ~200 calories is a good amount of energy for me. Coffee blended with butter and coconut oil sounds, frankly, pretty terrible, but surprisingly it tastes more like a really creamy and mild latte than actual butter and oil.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Using a blender is key here, whisking or stirring by hand won’t work to properly blend everything together. I like to use slightly stronger coffee than normal, and add a dash (heap) of cinnamon because I love cinnamon. It also fits nicely into my Mindful Eating challenge, as it’s something that not only I enjoy drinking, but it makes me feel solid for running.

For me this would never be a regular breakfast substitute, and I eat another smallish breakfast after I run (toast or oatmeal with peanut butter and banana, usually), but it works great for an early morning pre-workout energy boost. I found I preferred slightly less than a 1:1 ratio of oil to butter, so definitely play with the ratios a little. Feel free to make your pods smaller if you typically drink less coffee in the morning, or just don’t need quite that many calories to fuel your early morning activities.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

If you’re an AM exerciser looking for a lighter way to rev up your cardio sessions, and you like coffee, I highly recommend you give bulletproof coffee a try. I like to make the pods ahead of time so there’s no measuring required the morning of running, but until you figure out your perfect ratio you can always make them individually – just make sure your coconut oil and butter are chilled and solid before blending.

Bulletproof Coffee Pods
Makes 8 pods

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
7-8 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions

  1. Melt butter and coconut oil in a microwave safe container and stir to combine.
  2. Divide between 8 wells of a silicon tray or ice-cube tray.
  3. Freeze until firm (or overnight), then remove pods from tray. Store in the freezer until ready to use (or in the fridge if you’ll use them fairly quickly.)

Notes

I preferred it with 7 Tbsp of coconut oil for a slightly richer taste, so feel free to play with the ratios a little.

Bulletproof Coffee 
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

10-12 oz hot coffee
1 bulletproof pod (above)

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc (optional)

Directions

  1. Optionally, add a dash of spice to a mug.
  2. Add coffee and bulletproof pod to a blender, and blend until extra frothy (about 15 seconds).
  3. Pour blended coffee carefully into mug to stir in the cinnamon, then enjoy immediately.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie

Has summer hit your area yet? It’s been hit or miss here but we did have a lovely hailstorm the other day. And I say that with great sincerity, storms are fun so long as they don’t happen constantly.

The recipe I have for you today (although “recipe” might be kind of a generous term for a smoothie, if I’m honest) is great for those hot days when you want a healthy and filling meal but it’s too hot to make anything. It may not seem like much but I’m always surprised just how full I am at the end. Great for lunch (or dinner, if you’re as lazy as I am) and it is awesome for refueling after a long run.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

I’ll admit the green color can be a bit off-putting, but it tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake. If you’re extra afraid of vegetables, like I was when I first started making this, just add a little bit more peanut butter or yogurt until you can’t taste the green. Maybe even put it in an opaque cup if that helps you come to terms with it.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Cold, creamy, and sweet, it drinks like dessert but is a protein- and vitamin-packed meal replacement perfect for any day, but especially great on hot ones. A few years ago we had an extremely hot summer here in Montana (especially by Alaskan standards) and there were a couple weeks where I had one of these for dinner while I sat in front of the air conditioner pretty much every day after work. Five minutes to make and no heat to add to already scorching 98 degrees inside and out. Perfect.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for a quick, cold, and healthy meal (or very large snack), this is the one you want. Go forth and blend!

Note: I like to blend the spinach and milk first to make sure it is well puréed. If you have a really nice blender and/or are not as averse to larger bits of leaf in your smoothie, you can definitely just blend it all at once instead of in two steps. Also! You can totally buy one of those giant containers of baby spinach (like Costco sells), blend it all up at once with some milk (or water if you prefer), and freeze it in to smoothie-sized portions. I used a muffin tin because that’s what I had on hand, and then I use two frozen portions per smoothie. Works great and there’s no risk of your spinach going bad (although I’ll admit getting them out of the muffin tin was somewhat annoying. In the future I will line it with foil or plastic wrap or something.)

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Makes one ~16oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 – 1 cup milk (I use 2% but any milk or plant wannabe will work)
1+ cups baby spinach, to taste1

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1/4 cup yogurt (I use vanilla honey Greek yogurt)
2 Tbsp peanut butter

Directions

  1. Blend spinach and 1/2 cup milk until reasonably smooth (no large pieces).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw and a sunny day.

Notes

1  I use one or two cups depending what fits, but you can add up to around four cups if you’re a big spinach fan. You likely want to use more yogurt and milk if you add much more than two cups of spinach.

I typically slice mine into roughly fourths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.