I'd argue that there is nothing in the world quite so heart-meltingly romantic as a steaming mug filled with rich, velvety hot chocolate. Not only is it chocolate, which is arguably the most romantic food on earth already (cue endorphins and dopamine), but it's melted chocolate -- smooth, creamy and sumptuous, the mug warming your fingers while ribbons of aromatic steam curl up into the air and disappear into the ethers. It's sensual and engaging and, because of this, invites intimacy in a way that a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates usually does not.
I think this is partly because the sharing of hot chocolate creates such a particular kind of environment -- a safe and comfortable space -- where boundaries come down and you feel able to kick off your shoes, let down your hair and cozy in for the evening. It's the sort of thing the Danish might call hygge. For this reason, you wouldn't share a hot chocolate with just anyone, because to do so is really a testament to the security and ease you feel in that person's company. It's for people who are special and make you feel special, too.
As you may have heard, cacao is packed with antioxidants, so the caring aspect of sharing a cup of hot chocolate extends far beyond just the warm and fuzzy feelings around it but to the body, too. Additionally, chocolate supports healthy endorphins and serotonin concentrations in the brain and gut and has been found to enhance mood, improve memory and focus as well as increase the experience of positive emotions. So it isn't just all in your head (or perhaps it is?).
The chocolate in this recipe is then paired with spicy cayenne -- which supports healthy blood flow, endorphin production and can help ease aches and pains -- as well as cinnamon, which slows the absorption of sugar into your blood stream, acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and supports a healthy inflammatory response. All together, the chocolate and spice combine not only to create a warming, spicy and decadent drink, but one that is also mood boosting, and blood moving. It's no wonder that the Aztecs and Mayans consumed something similar on a daily basis as a health-promoting tonic and stimulant. I can't think of a better thing to share with that special someone in your life.
Spicy Valentine's Hot Chocolate
Note: Use the best quality dark chocolate you can find here; I'd suggest 70% or higher.
- 2 cups (473 g) milk of choice (I used oat milk)
- 1 cup (5 oz) chopped dark chocolate
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp powdered vanilla (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar (optional)
- Additional cacao powder and freshly grated nutmeg to garnish (optional)
- Add milk to a small saucepan and warm slowly over a low flame. Once the milk has just begun to simmer, add the chocolate and whisk until combined.
- Add the spices and whisk again to combine.
- Once the chocolate is completely melted, remove from the heat. Taste and adjust flavors as required, adding more cayenne if you want it spicier or a tablespoon of coconut sugar if you'd prefer it sweeter.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of cacao powder, some freshly grated nutmeg and if you like, a pinch more cayenne and cinnamon.
Happy Valentine's Day!
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Writer Danielle Charles Davies holds a Bsc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and completed the two-year clinical training program at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier, VT. Her writing has appeared in Taproot, The Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, and Kindred Magazine, among others. She lives in Northern Michigan with her husband, two dogs and eight ducks. She blogs at www.bluemoonkitchen.com.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.