Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Without Dry Milk or Creamer {With Free Printable Gift Tags and a Dairy Free Option}

Hot Chocolate Mix

I can’t tell you (because I can’t remember) how many requests I’ve received through the years for a healthier hot chocolate mix.  Non-dairy creamer and powdered milk are two ingredients in every homemade hot chocolate mix recipe I’ve ever found - and those are two ingredients I try to avoid if possible.  I’ve had to keep telling people through the years that, sorry, I have no idea how to make a hot chocolate mix without those ingredients.  I worried, fretted, and lost sleep over the fact that I was failing to provide a healthy hot chocolate mix recipe.  (Not really, but shucks if I didn’t want one for myself too.)

Then I realized that I was making this way too hard.  After all, what we’re all going for in this real food realm is simple, back to basics, whole food ingredients - right?  Then why not mix together the basic, real food ingredients needed to make homemade hot cocoa – and keep the mixture on hand as a quick mix to stir into hot milk?  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – we now have a real food, real good, real easy Hot Chocolate Mix!  And it’s here just in time for Christmas!

You’ll probably look at the simple recipe below and ask, “Really Laura? It took you six years to come up with this?”  And I would have to shrug and say, “Uh-huh.”

Homemade Healthier Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups sucanat or brown sugar

Place ingredients in a pint-sized jar and shake well.  When you are ready for a cup of hot chocolate, here is what you’ll do:

In a small saucepan, whisk 2 1/2 Tablespoons of Hot Chocolate Mix with 1 cup of milk.  Heat and stir on medium heat until warm and ready to serve.

This recipe makes about 12-15 one-cup servings, depending on how “heaping” your Tablespoons are when you stir it into the milk.

Want to make this dairy free?  Simply add the mixture to a cup of coconut milk.  It’s super delicious!

Malachi had a buddy over the day I was playing with this recipe idea.  They were sweet enough to be my taste testers, and they both gave it a thumb’s up.  Or at least I believe they would have if they weren’t so busy saying “yum” and guzzling it down.

hot chocolate mix 1

Want to package this Hot Chocolate Mix up for a gift?  Simply place a gallon-sized twist tie bag (like this one) down into a mug.  Funnel the mix into the bag and tie it up with a bow.  Attach a gift tag to the handle of the mug, describing how to make the mix into Hot Chocolate.  You’ll find free printable gift tags below!

hot chocolate mix 2

Download and print Hot Chocolate Mix Tags Here

Hot Chocolate Mix Tags sm
Now you tell me – is this exciting or what?  How fun to have a real food Hot Chocolate Mix to have on hand and to give as gifts!  Sometime within in the next six years, I hope to provide you with another recipe idea as simple as this one.

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One Hour Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls (No Kneading Required)

I got this recipe idea here.  Then, I experimented and remade it with more wholesome ingredients.
Here are all of my Real Food Recipe Makeovers so far.

No Knead Rolls

You know all those excuses we use for not making homemade rolls very often?  This recipe smacks them all down.  Here, witness the smacking:

Homemade Roll Excuse #1 - It takes too long.

Not with this recipe.  These take one hour – from the time you get out the bowl until the time you serve these fresh out of the oven.  I didn’t believe it myself.  But now I do.  Because I proved it.  {Smack.}

Homemade Roll Excuse #2 - It makes a huge mess.

Not these.  You mix everything in one bowl, don’t have to knead the dough, grab the dough straight from the bowl to form rolls, then put them directly onto the pan.  I shed not a single tear over the fact that I didn’t have to spend several minutes after kneading dough to scrape crusty flour paste off of my countertop.

Homemade Roll Excuse #3 - I’ll eat too many.

This recipe only makes 12-16 rolls, just enough for a meal or two.  Plus, the rolls freeze well if you have leftovers.

Homemade Roll Excuse #4It’s hard to make homemade yeast breads.

Oh please.  My eleven year old could make these.  Measure, stir, wait, stir, wait, stir, wait, roll dough into balls, wait, bake, wait, eat.  The hardest part is waiting (and trying to figure out if you already added the salt before the phone rang and distracted you).

Are you now ready to get out a bowl and have hot, fresh rolls ready to go with your dinner?  Here’s how to make it happen:

One Hour Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls

1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons yeast (I use dry active)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup melted butter, coconut oil, or palm shortening (make sure it isn’t too hot)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
3 – 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)

1.  In a large bowl, mix together water, yeast, and honey.  Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
2.  Add melted butter, salt, and egg.
3.  Gradually stir in the flour.  The dough will be sticky but manageable.  Cover the bowl of dough with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
4.  With your hands, shape dough into 12-16 balls.  Place the balls so that they don’t touch each other on a buttered cookie sheet.  Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
5.  Bake rolls in a 375° oven for 10-15 minutes.
6.  If you like (and I do recommend it), brush tops of rolls with a mixture of 4 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon honey.  Perfection.


Why am I featuring these during the week of the Getting Ahead Dinner Challenge?  Can you make these ahead of time to go with your dinner?  Sure, if you want.  But here’s where I really think it comes in handy:  If I have a simple dinner already prepared and ready to cook, but I want a quick dinner roll to go with it, these rolls are perfect!  Plus, since the rest of my dinner is already prepared, I actually now have time to surprise my family with fresh rolls too!

OR, what if you need some buns to go with Sloppy Joe Meat or Barbecue Chicken that you have prepared in your freezer?  These rolls are perfect.

So what are you waiting for?  You have one hour to make delicious, homemade rolls….GO!

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Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups {Real Food Recipe Makeover}

This recipe was inspired by Laura S., someone I met at the Colorado Springs Meet and Greet.  Not only was her idea brilliant, I think her name is absolutely beautiful.  ;)

I wasn’t able to make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups look perfect and beautiful like one you’d pull out of a Reese’s wrapper.  But I did make them taste better, so we’ll go with “taste before beauty” on this one.  And of course, with these, you avoid the hydrogenated oils and turn out an even more delicious treat than one that comes from a factory.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Warning:  These are super rich and slightly messy.  Children and adults alike may end up with chocolaty fingers and faces, not to mention a sugar high.  You’re welcome and I’m sorry.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons Butter

Stir together peanut butter and honey in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Prepare six regular sized or 15 mini-sized muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter, stirring until melted.  Spoon half of the melted chocolate mixture into the prepared paper-lined muffin cups.


Place a spoonful of peanut butter mixture into each cup, dividing the mixture evenly among the cups.  Top each with the remaining chocolate, smoothing it the best you can to cover the peanut butter.


Refrigerate for two hours until solid. (Or place in the freezer for about thirty minutes to speed the process.)  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

You’ll be happy to know that while playing with this idea, I also came up with a Chocolate Caramel Cup.  Recipe coming soon…

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

This recipe looked too good to pass up – and it was super easy to makeover with healthier ingredients.  We all loved the results.  (Except for Malachi, who didn’t try them because he doesn’t like peanut butter.  He’s missing out!)

It probably goes without saying that these muffins taste awesome with a glass of milk.  They are easy to make ahead of time and serve the following day.  (Although they really do taste best right out of the oven.  Doesn’t everything?!)  These muffins freeze well.  They make a great snack.  I love recipes like this!  It doesn’t get any easier!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I use homemade peanut butter)
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour made from hard white wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup sucanat
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips
In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and the peanut butter.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sucanat.  Add melted butter and peanut butter, eggs, and milk.  Stir until well combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
Scoop batter into 18-24 paper lined muffin cups.  Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.

Are you a chocolate/peanut butter fan?

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Homemade Healthy(er) Twinkies

Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

Twinkies bring up a very special memory for me.  The only time we ever got Twinkies when I was little was when we needed to pack a lunch on school field trip days. Therefore, about two days each year, my mom bought my brother and me a Twinkie, and packed it in our sack lunch – along with a cold grape soda wrapped in tin foil to keep it cold.  Such fun memories!! (And the only real reason I liked field trips.) :)

So here we are, over thirty years later, and about three years after the first healthier Twinkie recipe request I received.  Obviously, this recipe make-over really had me stumped.  While I had an idea about how to make a whole wheat spongy cake, I had no idea how to make a healthier cream filling.  So when one reader, Stacy, left a comment a couple of weeks ago on the Redless Velvet Cake post, sharing a recipe that she said tasted “like Twinkie filling” – I tried it right away. 


Unbelievable.  It really does taste like the Twinkie filling I remember from back in the day.  Upon tasting it, I suddenly had the urge to get a grape soda, climb onto a loud school bus, and take a trip to a museum.  (But not really.) 

I will admit that it was harder than I thought it would be to duplicate the airy, empty-calorie cake part of a Twinkie.  Regardless, these “Twinkies” taste delicious and were a fun treat for my family.  My kids devoured them!

Homemade Healthy(er) Twinkies

2 eggs
1 cup sucanat
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour from hard white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter

In a bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer for about four minutes or until thick.  Gradually add sucanat, beating for an additional 4 minutes.  (Yes, I know, lots of beating.  That’s how it becomes spongy, light, and airy.)

Add flour and baking powder, beating until just combined.  Heat milk and butter on the stove until butter melts.  Add milk mixture to batter, beating until combined. 

Pour batter into baking pan, and bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.  (I used a cool Flexipan that I’d gotten from Demarle.  Muffin tins would work great, or small loaf pans.)  Allow cakes to cool completely before filling.

Twinkie Filling

3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sucanat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Palm Shortening or softened butter

Cook milk and flour, stirring constantly until mixture is very thick.  Set aside to cool.  Whip milk mixture with sucanat until sucanat has dissolved. 


Add palm shortening and vanilla and whip until light and fluffy.


Check it out!  Stick your finger in and taste it…just like Twinkie Filling!  (Except better.  Of course.)


To fill your Twinkies:

Slide a long knife through each cake – just to make an opening.


Put Twinkie Filling into a frosting bag with a large, open tip.  Place the tip into the slit in the cake and squeeze to fill.  (I found that putting some in each end of the Twinkie worked best to fill the Twinkie evenly.

When I called the boys in for the treat, it is a fact that my two youngest asked, “Twinkies?  What are Twinkies?”  I guess they’ll never know – except for what they’ve experienced with this healthified version.  :)

Once I explained “Twinkies” to the boys, Malachi said, “Oh!  Is this that treat Grammy used to give you on trips?”  Yes indeed.  {sniff}  I’m so glad he remembered that I had told him the Twinkie story. 


In case you didn’t already figure this out by reading through the above instructions, Homemade Healthy(er) Twinkies are a little bit of a “high maintenance” recipe.  This type of recipe did not make it into my Oh, For Real book.  Only recipes that can be made quickly and easily made that book!  But hey, this Twinkie recipe is still a keeper.  It’s lots of fun and a very special treat to make!

Think you’ll give these a try?  Have any fun Twinkie memories to share?

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Red(less) Velvet Cake

Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

Looking for a special treat for Valentine’s Day?  How about a Red Velvet CakeWithout the red.  While the red food coloring is pretty, it doesn’t add anything to the cake (except for freakish fake color that I don’t really want in my gut).

This cake experiment became a treat that is super moist and delicious, with a mild chocolate flavor.  And hey, if you squint and look through pretend red colored glasses, the light brown color of this cake really does have a reddish tint.  It’s true.  Can you see it? 


Red(less) Velvet Cake

1 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 Tablespoons water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I recommend using flour made from hard or soft white wheat)
1/2 cup organic cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups sucanat, made into “powdered sugar”
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting

Place butter, water, and cocoa powder in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined.  In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and powdered sucanat.  Pour in butter mixture, and the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat the ingredients together until smooth.

Pour batter into two well-buttered 9 inch round cake pans.  Bake in a 375° oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Be careful not to overbake these cakes or they will become dry.  Allow cakes to cool for a few minutes, then carefully turn them out onto two separate plates.  Allow them to cool completely.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting, beginning with a layer in the middle of the cakes, then on the top and around the sides.


See how pretty?


See the red?


 Okay, fine.  It really is red(less).  But it is crazy delicous.  :)

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Homemade Nutella ~ Real Food Recipe Makeover

Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

“Homemade Nutella” is a recipe request I’ve had over and over.  I never got around to making it (and I have excuses).  But do you remember how I told you that my friend Anne and I exchange Christmas stockings each year?  Well this year, one of the items she put in my stocking was Homemade Nutella!   I begged her for the recipe – and here it is. 

You really don’t want to know all of this, but just in case you do, even though you really don’t, here is the background information on how I managed to get this recipe from Anne:

  1. I emailed Anne after I got back from California to thank her for the lovely stocking and to tell her that later that day when Matt came to pick up our milk, I would send over some of the fresh oranges we’d brought back from our trip. And I asked her for her Nutella recipe.
  2. She emailed back to say that she had also loved what I’d put in her stocking and that her mouth was watering while she waited for an orange. But she said nothing about the Nutella.
  3. Matt went and picked up the milk, but I was upstairs doing laundry when he left, so I forgot to send oranges.
  4. I found mouse poop in some red wheat I had in storage and emailed Anne asking if it would be okay to feed that to her chickens. And I apologized for not sending oranges and told her I’d eat one on her behalf, and that at that very moment, I had the juice from a delicious orange running down my chin.
  5. Then she emailed me back and told me that I was evil to eat her oranges.  And she said, “rats” about the mouse poop.  See her rodent inspired play-on-words there?
  6. I giggled and emailed her back and said that yes I was evil, and full of citrus, and that really and truly, I’d get her some oranges.
  7. Then I kept forgetting to take over the oranges.
  8. But I really wanted the Nutella recipe.  So I emailed her again a few days later and said, “You know how I asked for the nutella recipe and you forgot to give it to me? (Kind of like I told you I would bring oranges and then didn’t?) Any chance you could throw that my way? A few thousand HHM readers would love to hear about it… :) I have a small sack of oranges ready for you by the way. And some poopy wheat.”
  9. She emailed back to say, “Very clever” and then she gave me the recipe.
  10. Then today I finally remembered to give her the oranges.
  11. The end.

You’ve got to admit.  That story was a lot more fun than me simply stating, “I got this recipe from my friend Anne.”  

Homemade Nutella

1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup powdered milk (not an ingredient I typically use, but an okay compromise for this recipe)
1 Tablespoon mild-flavored honey
pinch salt
1 heaping cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, or chips
1 scant cup chopped milk chocolate, or chips

On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the nuts in a 400º oven for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and their skins begin to pop. Transfer to a tea towel, gather into a bundle and rub together to remove as much of their skins as possible. While warm, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and blend until they go from finely ground to pasty and thick, like natural peanut butter.

Meanwhile, warm the milk, powdered milk, honey and salt in a small saucepan just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat. In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolates, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate to the ground nuts and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well blended and as smooth as you can get it. Makes about 2 cups.


 What’s your favorite way to use Nutella?

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Dairy Free Options to Replace Cream Soups

If you’re looking to replace canned cream soups on a recipe, there are several options I’ve recommended.  (Read this post to learn more.) 

However, all of the ideas I’ve thought of include dairy.  What about those of you who need to avoid dairy? 

Shucks…I have no ideas.  We’re very creamy and buttery at our house.

Our One Dish Meat and Potato Meal, which uses Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Never fear though – I have a whole lot of readers and they are all smart and full of ideas.  I’ll just bet many of you have some experience with this and can chime in with some great suggestions.

So let’s hear it!  What can you use in a recipe to replace Cream Soups that will be a healthy alternative but does not include dairy?

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Homemade Caramel Brownies

How’s this for a great way to begin the new year?!  :)

I got this idea from my friend Kim.  Smart!  You can either bake these in a 9×13 inch pan, or in muffin cups for fun, individual servings.

Caramel Brownies

2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups sucanat
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 recipe of Homemade Caramel Sauce

Stir together butter, sucanat and cocoa. Mix in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and mix until combined.

To make a 9×13 inch pan of these brownies, spread the brownie batter into the pan.  Drizzle the Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top and “cut it in” with a butter knife.  Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

To make individual Caramel Brownies:

Divide brownie batter evenly into 12-15 paper lined muffin cups.

Make a small “well” in the middle of each brownie cup.  I used the end of the spoon to do this, since I’m so professional and fancy.

Next, drizzle warm caramel sauce into the well and over the brownie – one or two tablespoons for each.

Bake in a 350° oven for 25 minutes.

Not interested in the Caramel Brownies?  How about Peanut Butter Brownies?  :)

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Whole Wheat Butterhorns ~ Real Food Makeover

Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

Did you know that I really, really love butter?

Let’s see – which do I love more?  Butter…or jars?  That’s a toss up.  Hey, did you know you can make butter IN a jar?  That tidbit of information is irrelevant to this post, but still worth mentioning…just because it involves two of my favorite things.

It is a fact that Matt’s eyes got really big as I was buttering my biscuit last week – even though he obviously knows how much I love butter.  I mean – it was enough to stop our conversation at the time.

“What?”  I said,  “You’ve never seen me butter my biscuit before?”

“Yes,” he said, ”I’ve seen you.  But there is almost more butter than biscuit this time.”  (At which point I grinned – and got just a tiny bit more butter because there was a spot on my biscuit not yet covered…)

Alrighty.  So I like a little biscuit with my butter.  And I like it to be all melty down the sides.  Then I like to sop the buttery drippings off of my plate as I eat my biscuit.  It’s just best that way if you ask me.

Which is why I was excited to make over this recipe.  I mean, they are called Butterhorns!   I didn’t have to make many changes in this recipe – just a few minor tweaks.  And wow is it delicious!

With Christmas coming, many of you are looking for a yummy, whole grain roll to make with your holiday meal.  This would be perfect if you ask me.  :)

Whole Wheat Butterhorns

Whole Wheat Butterhorns

2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
9 cups whole wheat flour, divided (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
2 cups warm milk
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup sucanat or 3/4 cup honey
6 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
3-4 Tablespoons butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  (Water should be warm, but not so warm that you can’t comfortably put your finger in it to test the temp.)  Add 4 cups flour, milk, butter, sucanat, eggs, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until contents are smooth.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  I found it easiest to do this by hand.  Although if you have a Kitchen Aid type mixer, I’m sure that would work well too!  Turn mixture onto floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes.

Place dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (1-3 hours).

Punch dough down and divide into four equal parts. Roll each part into a 12-inch circle and brush with melted butter.

Cut each circle into 8 pie-shaped wedges.

Roll up each wedge from wide edge to tip of dough and pinch to seal. Place rolls, top down, on baking sheets.

Allow rolls to rise again for about 30 minutes or until they have doubled in size.  Bake at 375° for 10-20 minutes (every oven is different!) or until they are lightly browned.  Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Remove and serve immediately or cool on wire racks.

This recipe makes about 30 rolls.  These freeze very well! I found that having a batch of these in the freezer is wonderful when I need something additional to help stretch a meal! I simply take out the amount we  need, warm them in our toaster oven, and serve them with…you guessed it…butter.

Who loves butter as much as I do?  Do tell.

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