Sunday, October 13, 2013

A New, Healthy, Idea for a Coffee and Chocolate Gift Basket

 We were asked to make up themed gift baskets for a church women's conference, and my assigned theme was "Coffee and Chocolate". Always in season, but who wants to keep doing the "Starbucks and Godiva" thing?  I really wanted to step out and make one that was a little unusual.

Personally, we drink Community Coffee because we think their Medium Roast is the best daily coffee there is - we switched from Folgers a couple of years ago. We can no longer buy the one pound bricks in our local stores, so we order 8 or 10 pounds at a time direct from this small, family-owned company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There are two different women who pack our orders, and they sign their names to the packing list. They always get it right and I appreciate them.  It is great - every once in a while the Community Coffee folks email us a 15% or 20% off sale, and orders over $60 get free shipping. So we have wonderful, perfect coffee on hand.

That is what got me started down the Creole coffee road for my gift basket, and it snowballed from there to include Mexican Chocolate and Cafe de Olla. Partly because these wonderful, traditional American coffee & chocolate drinks are so good they deserve a much wider audience. And partly, also, because all of these can make use of Molasses.

Molasses is "unrefined sugar" to the Nth degree: Sugar cane molasses is a natural sweetener that contains a whopping bunch of naturally occuring nutrition in its unmodified, un-additive, un-messed-with, good, natural form.


 Check this out from the World's Healthiest Foods: 
Percent of Daily Value of Nutrients in 2 teaspoons of Blackstrap Molasses (notice that "blackstrap" type has about double the nutrition of regular unsulphured molasses - which is also good if you can't buy blackstrap in your local store):
 manganese 18%
 copper 14%
 iron 13.2%
 calcium 11.7%
 potassium 9.7%
 magnesium 7.3%
 vitamin B6 5% (there are other B vitamins / Niacin too)
 selenium 3.4%
Calories per 2 tsp: only 32 (1% of Daily Value)

How cool is that? All these old Southern ways of cooking and eating are actually healthy for us after all. Cooking in iron skillets (to add natural iron to our diets), using molasses, flavoring our spinach and greens with bacon grease (Vitamin K is fat soluble!).... oh I am getting sidetracked here... back to the gift basket!

Here are the recipes I used:


Creole Coffee:

Brew a nice breakfast coffee. To each mug, add 2 teaspooons of molasses and, if desired, 1/4 cup hot milk or cream.


Cafe de Olla (Mexican Coffee):

6 cups of water
6 Tablespoons ground Coffee (regular roast, regular grind)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Molasses
1 Cinammon Stick
Evaporated Milk to taste

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add all the ingredients except milk, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain into mugs and add undiluted canned milk to taste.  If the leftover coffee gets cold in the pan it can be gently reheated, just don't boil it again.

Mexican Coffee is very similar to old fashioned cowboy coffee or "creekbank coffee", in that it is made the same way: boiled up in a pan and then strained.  The addition of spice and sweetener is a matter of personal preference and availability.


Mexican Hot Chocolate

1 can Evaporated Milk
1 cup of water
1 block Mexican Chocolate
1 Tablespoon Molasses

Stir and heat until the chocolate melts, then whisk until frothy. This is very rich, so this recipe makes 3 servings. The reason there isn't extra sugar is because Mexican Chocolate has unrefined sugar in it already, along with vanilla and a hint of cinammon. If you can't get any in your stores, use powdered cocoa, brown sugar, a half teaspoon of vanilla, and a dash of cinammon.


I just wrote the recipes out by hand and doodled in colored markers to decorate them, then layered them onto a piece of cardboard and wrapped in clear wrap so they would stand up nicely in the basket. 

It all came together with a pound of Community Coffee, a bottle of blackstrap molasses, a box of Nestle's Abuelita Mexican Chocolate, a package of Fiesta Brand Cinammon sticks, and the recipes, all fluffed up with some red and green tissue. It is very cute, if I do say so. We will find out what others think when they auction it! :-) If it proves to be popular, I may make some of these up for Christmas gifts.

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