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A Warm Fall 

Healthy treats for cutting back on coffee

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While outside deciduous trees are shedding their extra leaves, inside we're bundling up in sweaters and putting an extra quilt on the bed. Fall is upon us in Humboldt County, a season during which retreating into warm homes to escape the chill is a perfectly good hobby. To up your game, add a comfy armchair, good book and steamy mug of something warm, healthy and delicious.

Lately, it seems like everyone I know is trying to cut back on coffee. Mind you, I've hardly gone a day without the black sauce since adolescence, but I'm very familiar with the many benefits in decreasing caffeine intake. Cutting back on your daily fix often results in better mood regulation and sustained energy levels. Sounds good, right? Rather than using deprivation as a torture device, I like treat myself to healthy coffee alternatives that double as a great afternoon snack, like the recipe below for homemade hot chocolate with a hit of spice.

There's also golden milk. Widely consumed across many Asian countries, it's a wonderfully restorative beverage replete with health benefits. Scientific studies are finding what Ayurveda, India's ancient system of medicine, has known for years about the healing powers of turmeric root. Whether consumed fresh or ground into powder, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for everything from a sore back to arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic's website, while not conclusive, some ongoing research "suggests that curcumin," which is found in turmeric, "may help prevent or treat cancer." In a less scientific study, my neighbor reports significant improvement in mental clarity on days when she drinks golden milk. I find it wonderfully soothing on my overly caffeinated digestive system.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

1 ¼ cup milk of your choice

1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar, honey or maple syrup

1 dash of ground cinnamon

1 dash of ground cayenne pepper (to taste)

Combine the ingredients in small saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate chips have melted. Don't bring the liquid to a boil but make sure it gets steaming hot. Pour the contents into a blender and blend for 20 seconds. Pour it back into your favorite mug and enjoy a rejuvenating and frothy cup of cocoa that would make any barista proud.

Golden Milk

Make a batch of golden paste ahead and store it refrigerated for up to five weeks. Use it to whip up a fresh cup of golden milk every time. I recommend using non-dairy milk.

For the golden paste:

1/2 cup turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 - 1 cup water (as needed)

1/4 cup organic coconut oil

Combine the turmeric, ginger, black pepper and water in a small saucepan. Starting with 1/2 cup of water, stir over low-medium heat and add more water as needed to turn spices into thick, mustard-colored sludge (3 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add the coconut oil. Stir well until the oil is completely incorporated and refrigerate the mixture in a glass container or jar.

To make golden milk:

1 1/4 cup milk of your choice

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon golden paste

1 tablespoon honey (to taste)

Combine the ingredients in small saucepan or microwaveable mug. Heat the milk over medium-high heat, stirring until the golden paste dissolves. Add honey according to your preferred sweetness. Turmeric is strong, so if it's a new flavor for you, start with less paste. For an extra treat-yourself factor, put the entire drink in a blender for 20 seconds before pouring it into your favorite mug.

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Nora Mounce

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