One of my favorite things about the colder months is curling up under a blanket with my dog, sipping on a nice warm mug of… something. Back in the days before my interstitial cystitis, I would go straight for basically any kind of coffee or tea drinks. Specifically, vanilla lattes, peppermint mochas, or black tea with a splash of coconut milk (seriously, if you haven’t tried that yet, do it. It’s so good.). But these days, I have to live a less caffeinated life as caffeine can be a HUGE trigger food for me. Even herbal teas, which I love and are caffeine-free, tend to cause my IC symptoms to worsen. As a result of these limitations, this favorite part of fall and winter months seemed to be a bit of a lost cause for me.
Luckily, I have found that hot chocolate isn’t a problem for me! Not only does it allow me to get all cozy with a warm mug, but it also satisfies my nostalgic craving for one of my favorite childhood drinks, as well as my sweet tooth. As a kid, however, we just mixed powder hot cocoa packets with hot water (usually the ones with the mini marshmallows included) and called it good. While those drinks hit the spot for me as a kid, these days I want my food and drinks to be made with real ingredients and full of real flavor. Besides the fact that my IC reacts pretty negatively to foods with artificial ingredients and preservatives, I feel so much better overall eating and drinking real, whole foods!
Both my aversion to caffeine and my love of real ingredients are what inspired my decision to develop this dairy- and refined sugar-free protein hot chocolate. I’m a huge fan of getting a solid serving of protein at every meal, as well as in snacks, to keep me energized and full, so the use of a clean chocolate protein powder in this recipe was a no-brainer for me! Additionally, I wanted to mix it up with the base of this drink a little bit. I love using coconut milk in most of my drink and smoothie recipes, but I wanted to add a little something special. As I recently moved to a small walnut farm (about 60 trees), and it’s currently harvesting season, I decided to make some fresh walnut mylk and use it as part of the base for this hot chocolate! Not only is the fresh walnut mylk smooth and creamy, it contains loads of nutrients such as vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium, to name just a few! (For more information on the nutritional benefits of walnuts, click here!)
Unsweetened Vanilla Walnut Milk (Makes approx. 1 quart):
- 1 cup shelled walnuts, soaked for at least two hours
- 3 cups filtered water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt (I use pink Himalayan sea salt)
Instructions: Add all of the ingredients to blender and blend on high for two minutes. While blending, put your nut milk bad or cheese cloth (I use Ellie’s Best nut milk bag. Use code “simplyshannonagins” for a discount!) in a bowl or large measuring cup. After blending, pour the blended walnut mixture into the nut milk bag and squeeze all the liquid into the bowl. Pour the nut mylk into a jar or bottle and refrigerate up to 4 days. Shake before using.
This walnut milk recipe makes more than enough for the following protein hot chocolate, so I also highly recommend using it in smoothies, on cereal, etc. But as for the hot chocolate, the homemade walnut milk makes it extra creamy and a little nutty.
Dairy-Free Protein Hot Chocolate (makes approx. 20 oz.):
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I use So Delicious)
- 1 cup unsweetened walnut milk
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 heaping tsp cacao powder
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Vega Chocolate Protein & Greens)
- Pinch of salt
- Cinnamon to taste (I use just a few dashes)
Heat coconut milk and walnut milk in small pot over medium-low heat. Add honey and vanilla and heat until bubbles form around edge of pot. Remove from heat and pour into blender. Add cacao powder, protein powder, salt, and cinnamon, and blend on high for at least 30 seconds. Make sure to allow the blender to vent the steam a little while blending or you may have a bit of an explosion on your hands (and all over your kitchen). Serve immediately.
This frothy, nutty, slightly cinnamon-y drink is honestly perfect for these chilly fall mornings when you’re looking for something that is rich and creamy, but isn’t coffee. With the additional protein in this drink, it’s honestly part of a breakfast in itself and would be absolutely delicious paired with pancakes or waffles. However, if you’re looking for more of a night cap, this protein hot chocolate would be such a satisfying and filling dessert (maybe paired with a warm chocolate chip cookie).
Not only is this hot chocolate dairy- and refined sugar-free, it’s calming, satiating, and full of real, nutrient-dense ingredients! Give it a try and let me know what you think!