Homemade Hot Cocoa
two recipes, for a dry mix & ganache—with mocha, caramel & endless variations
“Is there anything we can do to help her?”
This is what I heard my neighbor across the way say to her husband while he was plowing their driveway, as I gave into fatigue from shoveling a foot of snow covered in a layer of sleet. My goal was minimal—to clear a path from the front of the house to the end of the driveaway so Virginia could get onto the school bus tomorrow morning.
Last winter I had the realization that if I park the car at the end of the driveway, there’d be less to clear. True it meant the rest of the driveway would be covered in snow but life is about picking your battles, right? I do have a tiny snow blower which under normal circumstances works well. Normal is relative, though, and in regards to my snow blower, the ideal situation is to plow soft snow every 4 to 5 inches. This recent storm hit overnight, and ended with freezing rain.
I sat in a pile of snow, and just began crying. My neighbor went about his own business, continuing to plow his driveway.
Realizing the work that laid ahead to carve this seemingly simple path and also clear the 15 feet or so of driveway that would allow me to drive my car, reminded me how trapped I feel—by everything.
Trapped living in a place I don’t want to be.
Trapped by single parenthood for more than a decade now.
Trapped in a perimenopausal body that reminds me multiple times a day that I am a prisoner to its biological whims.
I picked myself up out of my snowy seat, and got back to clearing the small walkway by the front porch. It was now time to tackle the front portion of the driveway. The worst part is the pile of snow dumped along the tip of the driveway by the snowplows. I am not alone in this—it happens to the end of everyone’s driveaway. This is the fiercest and most stubborn of snow piles to clear, a collection of snow and ice compacted by the force of plows attached to the county salt and sand trucks.
Another neighbor diagonally across the way showed up with his bobcat and in minutes had all the snow from that front portion of the driveway cleared. I was beyond thankful for this kind gesture.
When I first moved up here I did have someone I paid to clear the driveway but as happens up here often, Jerry was unreliable both in when he’d show up and also careless with how cleared the snow. One year he broke the cap off my well. Another year he used so reckless, he broke the concrete on my walkway. Every summer when I pluck the weeds that grow through that broken concrete, which I’ve yet to fix, I’m reminded of how we can choose to enhance our fellow human’s existence or walk through life unaware or without a care.
And so, while my little snow blower and I are usually a good match for the snow, I am grateful for neighbors who choose simple acts of kindness to make other’s paths in life easier to bear—and in my case on a snow day, quite literally.
As for the rest of my day off, I’m settling in with a cup of hot cocoa. I grew up drinking Swiss Miss, and while I will confess to still enjoying it, I now make hot cocoa using either a homemade ganache or this homemade hot cocoa mix below.
I laughed when I saw the recent Dorie Greenspan newsletter. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but know it’s about hot chocolate, too. I’d been planning to share these recipes for a couple of weeks now, and guess hot cocoa is on everyone’s mind whether we’re shoveling a foot of snow in upsate New York or sipping it on the terrace in Paris (I’ll give you ONE GUESS where I’d rather be right now).