Because the cooler temperatures of Fall and all the Warmth they bring with them, can't come soon enough
Do you ever have those mornings where you wake up and hope it's raining? That when you crack your eyelids open, the room is just barely brighter than the inside of your eyelids? Those mornings that lead into guilt-free days of pure, pyjama-clad indulgence, where the simple fact that it's not 75 and sunny, is reason enough to dial it back for the day. (I'm aware that I may have lived in southern California for too long – I can feel an incredulous mob of damp-haired east coasters and northern Europeans rolling their eyes at me as they read this!)
I must admit I have them often – apparently you can take the girl out of her overcast, drizzly homeland, but you can't take that homeland out of the girl. There's just something about the half-light that makes my heart swell. When it's warmer inside than out and when a soft, electric bulb glows in harmony with a smattering of pooling wax candles, I'm taken straight back to short winter days in Denmark with my family, a good crime story to read and the sound of raindrops on the roof. Come to think of it, I'll take a torrential rainstorm in verdant Atlanta, GA, with the smell of something fragrant in the oven and the promise of a bath to round out the night, just as soon as I'd take a trip across the Atlantic. My childhood is rich with rain, and as an adult I crave not only precipitation, but also the nostalgia it drizzles down my window panes.
Cut to the end of October in Los Angeles, where the holiday season rapidly approaches and the temperature gauge still reads 90*F, despite the fact that persimmons, pears and pumpkins have hit every menu in town. Angelenos are being force-fed fall, even though we still find ourselves ordering our coffees iced and our toes painted pastel. Every day, with hope in our hearts, we preemptively don our sweaters, tights and jackets, in anticipation of a much longed-for dive into cooler temperatures, and every day we break a sweat, stripping back down to comfortable and barely decent.
I realize that, before I know it, the days will go from too hot to too cold, and the longing I have for long sleeves and a cold nose, will dissipate into a cold I can't shake from my bones – but, until then, I'll continue to keep my eyes shut for just a moment longer, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the clouds have descended upon this city of angels. (I'll also turn the air conditioning way down low, force myself into woolens, and perfect the perfect hot chocolate recipe in anticipation of a day so cold, I'll need it to warm my insides.)
This hot chocolate recipe is rich, comforting and totally vegan! (Not because I'm vegan, but because drinking a cup of hot dairy turns a cozy day in thick socks, into a day I'd rather not add to the memory bank.) For those of you lucky enough to bask comfortably in the delights of cow's milk, don't worry, you won't miss it – I promise.
In a Vitamix (or blender) combine the can of coconut cream (reserving about 2 tablespoons of the solid mass on top for garnish), cacao powder, dates, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Blend on high until the dates are completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
Heat in a pan (unless using a Vitamix, in which case it's already hot), until it reaches your desired temperature for drinking.
Pour the hot chocolate into two mugs, then whip the reserved coconut cream until light and fluffy. Top the hot chocolate with a tablespoon of the 'whipped cream' and some chocolate shavings.
As I sit here with my warm cup, staring out at clear blue skies and the mild distortion of air so hot you could slow-cook with it, I can see, way off in the distance, the promise of cold, drizzly days that taste of cacao, coconut and sweet dates, and imagine the window panes fogging with the warmth of their steam.
Soon, I hope.
*In order for the cream part of the coconut milk to really set up, store the can in the fridge over night. When you go to open the can, flip it first - then the creamy, solid part should be on top, ready to scoop out. If you live near a Trader Joe's, they sell cans of coconut cream that are perfect for this.
**I simply use a vegetable peeler and shave along a chocolate bar to achieve these chocolate shavings.
Because blending a pumpkin pie into coffee doesn't appeal to everyone
For those of you who didn't get the memo, today marks the first day of fall. It's finally time to break out the sweaters, switch from stone fruits to gourds and gear up for an onslaught of Holidays so relentless, we need a full nine months to recover from them. Move over summer - it's about to get really autumnal up in here.
Some of you may, however, be confused by this. Hadn't fall already started? Well, technically, yes. Even though September 22nd makes the change in seasons official, according to the calendar and the humorously christened weather men and women of the world, most Americans are well aware that fall actually starts when Starbucks tells us it does. Not a day before, and certainly not a day after.
When the iced, milky Frappuccinos of summer give way to 14 pumps of an orangey liquid dubbed 'pumpkin spice', you know you've worn your last tank top of the season. The Pumpkin Spice Latte, affectionately referred to and tagged as a PSL, is a sure sign that, no matter how much you'll be sweating in your woolen scarf and knee-high boots, it's time to cozy up to a fire and instantly become far more sentimental than you have been all year. (Oh those Holiday feels!)
It's truly amazing how the crowds go wild when this one little cup of dessert (because who are we kidding, that's exactly what it is) struts its cinnamoney-sweet legs out from behind the curtain. I'm pretty sure it actually started an entire pumpkin movement - I mean, have you been to Trader Joe's lately? From potato chips to Pop Tarts, it's all pumpkin, all day, and if you're going to make it through the next three months without starving to death, you'd better have a serious affinity for it.
But what if you don't? What if you really only like pumpkin in pie form, and really only on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day? Are you doomed to spend the next few months feeling like you've fundamentally missed the boat and like there must be something decidedly wrong with you for not acknowledging this orange gourd as flavoring suitable for a seasonal beverage?
Nah. You'll be alright. You've got options.
In fact, this time of year offers so many wonderful ways to fill our cups, it's almost overwhelming. The cooler months have us craving our drinks hot, and with heat comes possibility. Think beyond pumpkin. Think infusions. Think toddies. Think brews. Think steaming mugs of warmth, depth and flavor. From non-alcoholic and nourishing to belly-warming with a kick, I encourage you to gulp down everything this last quarter has to offer.
For a start, I'd give this one a whirl.
(You may have noticed that every ingredient in this helps boost your immune system, and is therefore perfect for this transitional time of year.)
In a sauce pot, combine all ingredients, except for the honey, and bring to a boil.
Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to a very soft simmer and keep it that way for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add in your honey, to taste. Turmeric has a bitter quality and ginger is quite spicy, so the amount of honey you use depends entirely on how sweet you need it.
Sip on this and not only will you feel like you should be sat next to the fire with a scrabble board, blasting Wham's 'Last Christmas' and staring out at the leaves falling from the trees, you'll also feel like you're taking care of yourself. Like you're building up a defense for the brutal months ahead.
Oh, and in case you're worried about when we switch from fall to winter, rest assured, your favorite coffee house will keep you well abreast of when it's time to break out your mittens and deck the halls - Eggnog Latte season's just around the corner, people. Phew.
(As a side note, my father just asked me what 'joy juice' you could throw in here to kick it up a level. Bourbon, dad, definitely bourbon.)
*Note: For this recipe I use Manuka honey. This honey, which is harvested in New Zealand, is really high in antibacterial properties, making it the perfect immunity booster for flu season. Manuka honey is, however, on the pricier side, so if you're not interested in spending the money on it, you can certainly use whatever honey tickles your fancy.