John D. Ivanko
December 14, 2011

Cup of hot cocoa on wooden table with saucer and spoon
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Make a healthier, farm-supportive cup of cocoa by using organic, fair-trade ingredients.

Most folks associate the do-it-yourself movement with building bookshelves or birdhouses, saving money by making your own. But there’s another group of DIYers that play around with things like making cocoa and dry milk, homemade equivalents of processed food with healthier, better-quality ingredients.

We’re regular pantry ninjas in our farmstead kitchen. Rather than buying the over-priced, hyper-processed items that come shrink-wrapped in a box or in a can from the supermarket, we’re on a perpetual quest to see what staples we can make at home. When you DIY in the pantry, you can lower the cost and pump up the quality of your food, prioritizing ingredients that are local, farm-grown, sustainably produced and supportive of fair trade.

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To unplug from processed products and make your own pantry equivalents, try anything from crackers to cocoa mix. We’ll help you get started with a favorite winter staple: hot cocoa.

This recipe showcases how simple DIY can be. All it takes for a cup of comfort are three ingredients: dry milk, sugar and unsweetened baking cocoa. Because of this simplified ingredient list, we can focus on selecting better quality ingredients that are:

1. Fair Trade Certified
Because we don’t have local access to cocoa or sugar, these pantry staples need to be imported from countries located thousands of miles away, typically in South or Central America. As hardcore locavores, we use Bill McKibben’s “Marco Polo exemption” definition, which rationalizes using things, like spices and yeast, which the 13th-century explorer would have brought with him on his travels. We don’t believe eating local should mean depriving yourself; instead, being “farmsteadarian” should be about knowing your farmer, even if he works with a cacao cooperative a few continents away.

By buying from companies that support fair trade and champion the farmer, we make sure the farmers who grow and harvest our hot cocoa ingredients receive a fair price for their goods and are treated with respect. Our unsweetened baking cocoa comes from Equal Exchange, founders of the fair-trade movement and one of the most well-established fair-trade farmer cooperatives. We purchase our sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners and vanilla from Frontier Co-op, both offering fair-trade-certified products.

2. Organic
We buy organic, nonfat dry milk in bulk from Organic Valley Family of Farms, the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the U.S. In a cooperative, the farmers own and control the company. We choose to buy this way because we know the cows were raised without the stuff we want to avoid (antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetically-modified organisms) and with methods we want to support (access to pasture).

Recipe: Homemade Hot-cocoa Mix

Yield: Approximately 20 servings

5½ cups dry milk
1¼ cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Recipe: Mug of Cocoa
Recipe tip: Give yourself time to slowly blend the mix into the hot water. For a mocha infused warm-up, substitute brewed coffee for the water.

Yield: 1 serving

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup hot-cocoa mix
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring water to a boil. Add mix, and blend well. Remove from heat, and add vanilla.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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