Does anybody else remember where they were and what they were doing in the Blizzard of ’96? I was 9 and in 5th grade. We’d just barely returned to school from Winter Break, and a snow storm hit most of the East Coast (arguably one of the top 3 worst in a century), dropping 8-10 inches of snow on Central Va in less than one day, followed by several inches of sleet, before finishing with another 8-10 inches of snow over the next two days. Everything shut down. A few days later, another system dropped another 6 inches on us. I thought it was great. It was magical. Snow as far as the eye could see. I remember walking with my parents and all of our neighbors to the Elementary School in our neighborhood where we spent every day and most of the evenings sledding down the hills behind it. It was the first, and last time, the snow was so thick that it was safe to ice skate on the lake we lived on. I remember walking up to the neighborhood convenience store with my Dad pulling one of our sleds behind us, to re stock on bread and batteries. School was out for almost another two weeks, before life began to return to normal.
And through it all, there are two things I remember becoming a ritual before out parents tucked us up into sleeping bags, for our ‘camp out’ in our living room, each night; steaming cups of hot cocoa and a roaring fire going in the (rarely used) fire place. It was the first time I’d ever seen my Dad bring in wood from the wood pile he kept and maintained, but had never before needed to use. I remember him coming in from the back yard with arms full of logs, shaking snow off his boots, and eagerly sipping his own cup of piping hot cocoa. Did I mention it was magical? I’m sure part of this was due to the fact that I was obsessed with the Little House On The Prairie series at the time, but a lot of it was my age and also the overwhelming feeling of love and family.
Fast forward almsot 20 years, now with my own home and kids of my own, and if the weather reports and storm casts hold true, Central Va is about ready to get hit with another snow storm of potentially historic proportions, well for our area anyway. Everybody is emptying store shelves, stocking up on milk, bread, and batteries. And while we’re no different, I also made sure to add to my cart the ingredients I’d need to make my own kids hot chocolate for the duration of anytime we’re spent snowed in. It’s tradition now 🙂
And there’s no better way to create a memory than warming up by a fire, watching snow fall, while sipping on a warm mug of this particularly indulgent cocoa. Caramel and rich, milk chocolate create a rich and creamy hot chocolate base that’s sure to thaw any freeze, and it’s all topped off with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a pinch of sea salt to really make that flavor ‘pop’.
- 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, or half and half
- 6 cups milk
- 2 cups (milk or semi sweet) chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce, plus extra for topping
- 1-2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
- whipped cream, for topping
- Add all of the ingredients (other than those for the topping) to your crockpot, and give everything a good stir to evenly combine.
- Heat the ingredients on low for 2-3 hours, stirring infrequently to prevent the chocolate from sticking, or until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth and hot.
- Ladle the hot chocolate into mugs and top with generous dollops of whipped cream, followed by a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.