Winter is synonymous with steaming hot mugs of cocoa, often enhanced by mini marshmallows and crowned with whipped cream, consumed in front of a roaring fire, of course. But hot cocoa, delightful as it may be, is just one way of enjoying the prized powder of the wonderful cacao tree (aka, the tree from which chocolatey goodness is derived).
Following are 10 delicious and creative ways to add cocoa – which is heralded for its numerous and wide-ranging health benefits – to your daily life this winter and beyond:
1. Cocoa-fy your coffee
Want to give your cup of joe a boost of beneficial antioxidants? Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder to a mug of hot brewed coffee and sweeten as normal. Warning: Your morning java just became even more addictive.
2. Sprinkle over fruit
Chocolate and fresh fruit are a perfect pairing. They not only complement each other flavor-wise, they’re both rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Simply sprinkle a tablespoon of cocoa powder over a bowl of nature’s candy and prepare to indulge in an even sweeter treat!
3. Boost your salads
Can’t handle the idea of another boring salad? We don’t blame you! End the monotony by adding some partially ground cocoa beans, known as nibs, to a mixture of lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots and any other veg you have in your repertoire.
4. Enhance trail mix
Those same cocoa nibs that took your salad to the next level also make an excellent addition to homemade (or store-bought) trail mix. Simply combine them with nuts, dried fruit and other tasty ingredients such as yogurt-covered raisins for a smart and satisfying snack.
5. Amp up cereal
Move over berries and banana slices. There’s a new topping in town! It’s cocoa powder, and it could be coming to a cereal bowl near you. A few tablespoons can make any morning better – and healthier, to boot!
6. Elevate your yogurt
If you’re yogurt fan (and really, who isn’t?), cocoa powder is a wonderful way to top off the tasty treat. And if you want to get creative, consider layering cocoa powder, fruit and yogurt to create a delicious, nutritious parfait.
7. Improve smoothie recipes
Gather your favorite smoothie ingredients, a few tablespoons of cocoa powder (or some nibs) and your blender. You know what comes next… a creamy, chocolatey smoothie that will leave you wanting more.
8. Make peanut butter better
Most of us would like to personally thank the culinary genius who first realized that peanut butter (or any nut butter) and chocolate are a delicious, decadent flavor combination. Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to your creamy (or crunchy) spread and prepare to enjoy the ultimate peanut butter sandwich. And it’s okay to throw in some banana slices for good measure!
9. Make your own exfoliating scrub
Mix a tablespoon of cocoa powder with equal parts coconut oil, honey and sugar until a paste forms. Apply the blend to your face, and allow it to set for approximately 20 minutes. Gently massage your skin while you rinse off this delicious DIY mask, and kiss those dead skin cells goodbye!
10. Smell it
Trying to stave off your sweet tooth? According to Health.com, taking a quick whiff of cocoa powder may help you combat cravings for sweet treats. That’s because the scent of the stuff activates the same neurotransmitters that are stimulated during chocolate consumption.