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Hot Chocolate (and Other Ways to Warm Up)

By Beth Clark • January 25, 2019

Warming Up in Winter

Hot Chocolate is the global go-to after playing in the snow, après-ski (plus peppermint schnapps, of course), or when you're snowed in, so here are some pro tips on making your own hot cocoa, along with some other ways to warm your body and soul in the chilly depths of winter.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate, also called hot cocoa, is THE quintessential winter warm-up beverage all over the world, and making it from scratch is quick, easy, and molto delizioso. To make two servings, all you need is ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup baking cocoa, ¼ cup hot water, 3 cups milk, ¼ cup half and half or heavy cream, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Combine the sugar and cocoa in a saucepan, then add the hot water slowly, mixing with a whisk. Bring it to a boil and cook for 2 minutes on medium-high, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to medium, stir in the milk and heat it to serving temperature (not boiling). Remove pan from heat, stir in vanilla and half and half or heavy cream, and whisk until frothy, then pour into mugs. (Note: If the recipe is too sweet, add less sugar, and if it's too rich, add more milk…you're the one who'll be f-f-freezing, so it's gotta taste good!)

You can top your hot chocolate with marshmallows, whipped cream, or a sprinkle of cinnamon, and/or garnish it with peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks or orange zest. For grownups, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps is a classic – just add it with the vanilla and top it with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candies. For connoisseurs and the more adventurous, Michael Turback's Cocoa Comfort: 50 Cozy Hot Chocolate Recipes to Warm Your Winter includes variations like peanut butter hot cocoa, hot cocoa with chili, and Mezcal Lavender Nightcap Hot Cocoa.

Some hot cocoa reads:

Other Ways to Warm Up

After you come in from the cold and get out of your wet or frozen outerwear, here are some next steps that will help you get warmed up:

  • Make your favorite hot chocolate, tea, or coffee and hold it as you drink it to warm up your hands.
  • Watch a movie while drinking hot chocolate and cuddling up with your significant other or kids to share body heat…you may be chilled, but you're still warm-blooded mammals.
  • Start a fire and plop yourself down in front of the fireplace with a good book.
  • Wrap yourself in a thick blanket or down comforter and grab your favorite book.
  • Put on a hat and super thick knitted socks or your favorite hoodie and slippers.
  • Blow-dry your hair if it's wet and alternatively direct the warm air toward your body.
  • Two words: lap. dog. (Or cat…we love both.)
  • Invest in a towel warmer and hang your 'after' clothing on it before heading into the cold.
  • Bake! Moving around the kitchen will get your blood flowing and preheating the oven will help reheat you.
  • Take a warm (not hot) bath after letting your body adjust to being inside for 30 minutes first. (Remember to take a book with you!)
  • Use a heating pad under your bum or fill a nalgene bottle with hot (NOT boiling!) water, put it in a pillow case, and hold it in your hands or rest your feet on it.
  • Obviously, saunas and Jacuzzis are highly effective if you have access to either.

Warming Up Hands and Feet

Because of their distance from the body's core, hands and feet are more prone to frostbite and harder to warm up once they get wet and cold, especially if they've been cold for too long and are painful or numb. Here are some tips for taking care of frozen fingers and toes:

  • Remove wet socks, gloves, and other clothing as soon as you're in a warm, dry place.
  • If skin is bright pink and not painful, the above methods of warming up should suffice.
  • If the skin is green, blue, purple, or black, immediate medical attention is required, so very gently pat hands/feet dry and wrap them in a blanket, then get thyself to the ER or call your doctor's office ASAP...don't attempt to warm them up yourself since you could inadvertently cause permanent tissue damage or the loss of fingers and toes.
  • If the skin is red with white patches, it may be superficial frostbite (aka “frost nip”) and should return to normal after everything warms back up.
  • Start by gently patting hands/feet dry and rewarm them gradually by soaking them in warm (not hot!!) water for 30 minutes, then layering a couple pairs of dry socks and/or using warm blankets.
  • Resist rubbing or massaging hands/feet…even if you don't have frostbite, it can damage the skin and/or underlying tissue (try not wiggle your toes or fingers too soon for the same reason).
  • Don't pour hot water on them, apply direct heat with a heating pad or hot water bottle, or sit too close to a fire, though being in the general proximity of the latter is probably okay. If things are improving, groovy…keep letting them warm up until they look normal and feeling returns. If they're still not better after an hour or the pain becomes too intense as they thaw, call your doctor's office or head to the ER.

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