We have a chart on our refrigerator. It has become indispensable. It is called the "Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light" chart. In the lead up to Halloween my son had a revelation after a few meltdowns related to the desire for sugar. He said sweetly "Mom, I think sugar is controlling my brain!". And with that realization came the chart. It's not just for him...my name is on it too. It is a list of snacks and special foods that we use to give boundaries to our sugar intake. The category each food item falls into, based on the amount of sugar, salt and general nutritive value, determines how many times per week it is allowed. Red light foods: twice weekly. Yellow light foods: three times weekly. Green light foods: unlimited with an eye on balance, for instance, we can't eat peanut butter toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
This simple chart has worked wonders and has pushed me to create more "Green Light" versions of otherwise "Red Light" or "Yellow Light" foods. One of these creations is the Green Light Cocoa. I had just picked up a couple sleds from the neighborhood hardware store and we were determined to go sledding after school. It was getting colder that afternoon but that was not going to stop us, and it was my son's first sledding experience. Cocoa was in order.
There will definitely be exceptions to our chart over the following two weeks, but that will be the exception and the rule of law remains our Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light chart. I want to rejoice in an abundance of good health through the holidays and into the new year!
Dates take the place of the sugar in this cocoa, and as long as you don't drink 8 cups of it, I think it fits just fine into the green light category. Whereas sugar has nothing but, well, sugar molecules, dates have fiber, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins and sugars too. Why have empty calories when you can have all those little vitamins and minerals, fiber, and more complex flavor than just the flat sweetness of sugar.
Another key benefit of using dates is the thick, more true hot chocolate texture that results rather than the thinner consistency you get when sweetening with sugar. This is the perfect, rich and satisfying post cold-weather activity snack, and it is heartily approved of by my family.
If you want to think ahead, soak the dates before you head out into the cold so they will be nice and soft and ready to blend as soon as you get home. Otherwise, it really only takes 10 minutes for them to soften in the hot milk. Straining removes the little bits of date skin that may not get blended completely to ensure a creamy smooth cocoa.
Now get out there and experience the season knowing you have a nice hot cup of cocoa to come home to! Enjoy!
Green Light Cocoa
- 1 3/4 C Almond milk (or preferred milk)
- 4 Medjool dates
- 4 Tsp Cocoa powder
- 2 Pinches cinnamon, to taste
In a small pan, heat the milk quite hot but do not boil. Pit the dates and soak them in the milk with the cocoa powder and cinnamon for 10 minutes. Blend the mixture until very smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid back into the pan and warm it to your liking. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Enjoy!
Yield: Two servings