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Chase the chill with hot beverages

January 20, 1999|By Lynn F. Little

A steaming cup of flavored coffee or hot chocolate stirs visions of winter wonderlands and chatting with friends around an open fire.

The ingredient lists on most hot beverages, however, reveal the less inviting reality of freeze-dried coffee, aspartame, whey, nondairy creamers, corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors.

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Still, if you are careful, you can enjoy hot beverages with considerable taste and comfort for relatively few calories (30 to 80 per serving), little fat, and with a variety of flavors to suit every taste.

Hot chocolate flavors range from traditional hot cocoa mixes with marshmallows to such flavors as chocolate English toffee, chocolate almond and chocolate Irish cream. The range of flavors in coffee is even wider.


Most hot beverage mixes call for the addition of 6 to 8 ounces of hot water. Substituting skim milk for part or all of the water or stirring in several tablespoons of instant nonfat dry milk often improves the taste of the beverage and adds calcium, protein and riboflavin.

What should you look for when shopping for flavored coffee and hot chocolate mixes? Here are some tips:

* Choose a hot beverage with no more than 2 grams of fat per serving. Be especially leery of mixes that have partially hydrogenated oils near the top of the ingredient list.

* If you are counting calories, choose a product that contains zero to 80 calories per cup. Because sugar provides most of the calories in cocoa mixes, you may need to look for one that is artificially sweetened. Some flavored coffees contain no sugar at all. Check the label to be sure.

* Many of today's hot cocoa mixes provide little in the way of calcium. Mixes that list nonfat dry milk or dry milk solids on the ingredients list are your best bets for calcium. You also can boost calcium by adding your own nonfat dry milk powder to the mix or by making the beverage with skim milk instead of water.

* If sodium is a concern, be sure to read the label. Some mixes contain as many as 300 milligrams of sodium per serving.


Instant Cappuccino Mix

  • 1 cup powdered chocolate milk mix
  • 3/4 cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 1/2 cups mix. To serve: Place 1 heaping tablespoon mix in a cup or mug. Add 1 cup boiling water or skim milk and stir.


Vanilla-Almond Coffee

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds

Place coffee in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. In a cup, combine remaining ingredients. With processor running, add flavorings to ground coffee. Stop and scrape sides of container with a rubber scraper. Process 10 seconds longer. Store in refrigerator. Yield: mix for eight 6-ounce servings. To serve: Place mix in filter of an automatic drip coffee maker. Add 6 cups water and brew.

Spiced Tea Mix

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup instant orange-flavored breakfast drink mix
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant tea
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Store mixture in an airtight container. To serve, spoon 1 tablespoon tea mix into a cup. Add 3/4 cup boiling water; stir well. Yield: 1 1/4 cups mix

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County - University of Maryland.

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