A Hot Pot of 'Sippy-Poo'

When she drank alcohol, my Aunt Ginny was fond of her afternoon "sippy-poo." Usually, this meant a Pink Squirrel, a sickly sweet concoction of white creme de cacao mixed with creme de noyaux, an almond-flavored red liqueur that gives the drink its signature Pepto-pink hue.

Spiced hot chocolate: Exactly what Santa ordered. (Kim O'Donnel)

In spite of my aunt's affinity for psychedelic-colored beverages, I always like her turn of phrases, and as an adult, adopted her "sippy-poo" expression as my own. And at this time of year, when drinking and eating turn into sport, a light-hearted Aunt Ginny-ism is particularly fitting.

More than any other time of year, December holidays bring out the "sippy-poo" in all of us -- whether or not we drink alcohol. For the most part, I drink wine, but over the next few weeks, I'll cave to a glass of eggnog or something spritzy and sparkly. Let's face it: there's something festive and special about a beverage that requires a recipe. The choices are many, from
creamy, coconutty eggnog, Puerto Rican style
to various renditions of the hot toddy.

The choices are just as glam if you stay away from alcohol, from the uber-fruity sodas (pomegranate, cranberry and blood orange, to name a few) out on the market to a juicy Cranbernet Sauvignon. (For more nonalcoholic party tips, check out this week's party tips in the Home section.

In spite of the bounty of elegant offerings, I'm still a sucker for a pot of homemade hot chocolate. With or without booze, a few sips of hot cocoa inevitably takes me back to a snow day of my youth. Remember those cold, crimson cheeks after a snowball fight?

The recipe below is a highly spiced, aromatic brew that feels like a chocolate chai. I can't make my hot chocolate any other way now. With all the circulation-boosting properties of the chile flakes, the cinnamon sticks and cloves, the infused milk also makes a wonderful antidote to a case of the winter slugs. And yes, this is a one helluva "sippy-poo."

P.S. You can make this in advance, and heat up when ready to serve.

To all who celebrate, may your Christmas and Kwanzaa days ahead be merry and bright. And to all of you, peace on earth. See you back in this blog space Wed., Dec. 27.

Spiced Hot Chocolate
From the March 2004 issue of Bon Appetit magazine

6 cups whole milk
¾ cup brown sugar
15 whole cardamom pods
12 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
¾ teaspoon coriander seeds
¾ teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon vanilla

Pour milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add sugar, all spices and red pepper flakes. Cook on low heat to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover and let mixture steep for approximately 20 minutes.

Add cocoa powder and vanilla and bring back to a simmer, whisking until blended. Strain through a sieve, leaving behind spices, and pour into mugs.

Makes 6 servings. Recipe may be doubled.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 22, 2006; 8:13 AM ET Holiday Treats , Liquid Diet
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Help! I'm about ready to hit the sippy-poo because the butterball web site isn't helping me to roast just a turkey breast. It's about 8 pounds but I don't know how long to cook it.

Posted by: Will be happy when it's over! | December 22, 2006 8:54 AM

Will be happy: Don't hit the sauce yet; it's not even lunchtime. First thing you need to do is check if you've got an instant read thermometer to test the breast for doneness, which in your case should be about 160 degrees. In a 375 oven, that should take about 10 minutes per pound...BUT that's an estimate. Really the safest way is to use that thermometer. Have fun!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 22, 2006 10:14 AM

Thank you, Kim! I'll drink one for you!

Posted by: Will be Happy | December 22, 2006 10:38 AM

Ok, so I'm pretty behind, but I'll blame it on being 9 months pregnant. Any suggestions for a Christmas meal for two? Our families don't have a set meal so we're sort of undecided as to how to face this first Christmas that we haven't gone home. Thanks!

Posted by: alexandria | December 22, 2006 11:01 AM

Alexandria, why not borrow a page from your fellow "Will Be Happy" and do a turkey breast? Get your other half to help out. Someone can make the apple or cranberry sauce. Someone else can dice a bunch of sweet potatoes and roast them in the oven with onions, slathered with olive oil. One of you can mix a bunch of spinach with some blood orange segments or even grapefruit (see post from the other day)...or even do the citrus with endive or radicchio. Dinner will be marvelous. And done together, it will take just a few hours to pull off. Have a very merry Christmas!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 22, 2006 11:12 AM

alexandria, if it's just the two of you, buy a fresh turkey breast, cut it in half and put half in the freezer. That way, you'll only have half of a turkey breast to cook and eat and you won't be eating turkey three times a day for the next three days (unless you want a bunch of left over turkey).

PS: (and don't let Kim see this) McCormick envelopes of gravy mix actually tastes pretty good once they are prepared.

Posted by: Happy Ho Ho | December 22, 2006 11:21 AM

what kind of booze should I put in this hot chocolate once it is ready? also, when you say 3/4 tsp vanilla, is that extract, or what, exactly?

Posted by: dan | December 22, 2006 11:50 AM

I'm having a just for two Christmas as well. I cooked for a crowd for Thanksgiving, so thought I'd do something simple for this holiday. We're having Soy-Maple salmon, brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, and chocolate tarts. With the exception of the tarts, it'll all take me about an hour to make, including prep work. So simple, so relaxed, so much time to curl up with my sweetie in front of the fire, and now with some good sippy-poo hot chocolate! That will go sooooo well with the Christmas movie marathon we're having!

Posted by: Organic Gal | December 22, 2006 11:53 AM

I'm tempted to make this for the New Year's party I'm having, but for less, um, adventerous guests will this suit them? Or will they wish I'd just made more tradition cocoa?

Posted by: BB | December 22, 2006 3:47 PM

Dan: I like to use a shot of rum for my hot choc, but others have a preference for bourbon...and yes, vanilla mentioned is extract.
BB: don't worry, let the old stodgies have a new experience. Not too weird, and very warming in the belly.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 22, 2006 3:58 PM

Dan - For variations on the hot chocolate, might I suggest creme de menthe, Gran Marnier, or creme de cassis. The two creme drinks are very sweet so you'll probably only want one. Gran Marnier holds up well without becoming overpowering. Cheers!

Posted by: Todd | December 22, 2006 6:43 PM

My sister took all the leftover turkey with her yesterday! I was foraging through the fridge yesterday evening and I realized that she didn't leave any turkey for me! Thank you for letting me vent.

Posted by: Where's the Turkey?! | December 26, 2006 10:28 AM

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