Here in the Great White North, Winter is always a time spent getting closer to our loved ones, sitting around the fire, sipping on warm drinks and braving through the cold elements; together. The holiday season approaches, and we all begin to ease into it:
Days spent marathoning Christmas movies,
Wondering where all the butter went,
Asking, “how much cheese is too much cheese, really?”,
and blissfully allowing the days to pile on top of eachother, only thinking,
“What time is it?.. how are we all still in our PJs?”
But this year, we may be feeling as though the holiday season ahead of us will be unlike any other.
We’re moving indoors more and more, to the safety of our homes, with only our immediate families to look to for comfort. For some of us living alone, enduring the holidays through a pandemic can feel daunting. Feelings of grief, loss and isolation abound. Sticking to our community, whether it be socially distanced or virtually + online, is so important here.
As an herbalist, I look at Winter a little differently than most, I can admit. A warm-blooded Ontario woman at heart, my skin gets a little thicker each passing year. Most of my plant allies in the garden have retreated, but I’ve come to know that there is still much abundance in the outdoors. A fun winter day, for me, is trekking through snowy terrain to spot a matured chaga fungi on a tall birch tree, then telling my husband to get his pocket knife ready.
I take it home, to the warm kitchen, and play. This year, I crafted a chaga forest cocoa mix for a post-hike treat.
The immuno-modulating actions in the chaga and the uplifting benefits of raw cacao are such a sweet little alchemy.
You may not have chaga in your neck of the woods, but Winter’s quiet allows us the space for curiosity and creativity. And most certainly chocolate.
You can’t mess up here. No one’s watching but you. Well, maybe your family. But they love you anyway, right?
I encourage you to play in your own kitchen, by experimenting with DIY hot cocoa mixes this season. Using accessible plant additions like dried mint, cinnamon, even ginger root or turmeric, spin your own riff, be curious, and enjoy the experience.
MINT HOT COCOA RECIPE
Makes 1 cup
1 TBSP raw cacao powder
8 oz hot water (just off the boil), enough to fill your mug
A pinch (1/8th TSP) of chopped dried spearmint, peppermint or chocolate mint
Even a mint tea bag works!
Maple Syrup or Honey, to taste
Milk, Oat Milk, Nut Mylk or Coconut Milk, for creaminess
Optional: chocolate curls, marshmallow, whipped cream or coconut cream
- Whisk your cacao powder into your mug of hot water. If using dried mint, add 1/8th of a TSP with the cacao powder and hot water and whisk together.
If using a mint tea bag, let the tea bag steep for up to 5 minutes in the mug, then remove + compost.
- Add maple syrup or honey, sweetening to taste.
- For creaminess, add milk, oat milk, nut mylk or coconut milk.
- Sip + enjoy!!!!
Britt Gillman is an herbalist and the owner of Pine + Clover Apothecary in Deep River, Ontario. A life-long student of medicinal plants and the outdoors, she enjoys crafting bioregional herbal offerings for her community, rooted in the rhythm of the seasons.