Until I went “Off The Sugar” (somehow, breaking my extreme sugar habit requires capitalization; it has been, after all, a life-changing process) I used to love Caribou Coffee’s Mint Condition, a coffee drink with a choice of milk, a choice of chocolate (white, milk, or dark), and a strong dose of mint syrup, with optional whipped cream and crushed Andes Mints. I used to order it with soy milk, dark chocolate, and no whip. Yum! However, that taste came at a price: 420 calories, 19 grams of fat, and a whopping 54 grams of sugar. Considering I now limit my added sugar intake to less than 20 grams total per day… well, you get the picture. Yet, when you’re enduring an elimination diet that deprives you of anything containing gluten, corn, dairy, or nightshade vegetables, a little chocolate can go a long way to making sure life still seems sweet.
Happily, my experiments on the home front have produced a mint mocha coffee drink that gives me the same cozy, mood-boosting glow of a Mint Condition at a cost I can afford (see estimated nutritional info, below). This chocolate syrup is the key. The syrup keeps in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. It may keep even longer, but it doesn’t last long enough in my house for me to test that theory!
Tip: Keep a close watch on the syrup as you’re cooking it, and don’t be tempted to overcook it if it looks thin. During my first trial, I boiled the mixture too long and ended up with a chocolate sauce the consistency of a thick pudding once the mixture had cooled down. The thicker sauce still worked fine for hot drinks, but less so for cold ones or for drizzling over fruit. (Psst: Banana + a smear of nut butter + a drizzle of chocolate syrup + a sprinkle of shredded, unsweetened coconut = bliss!)
Bittersweet Chocolate Syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli)
1/4 cup raw agave nectar or raw honey
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh, cold water
generous pinch salt
Whisk all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high until it begins to simmer. Lower heat if necessary to keep the mixture just at a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is just thick enough to coat the back of a cold, metal spoon and leave a trail drawn with a finger.
Remove from heat and let cool. Store in a tightly lidded mason jar in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 10 servings of 2 Tbsp each.
Nutritional information for 2 Tbsp serving: 35 calories, 1.6 g fat, 8.8 g carbs, 6.4 g sugars, 0.8 g protein.
Mint Mocha Coffee
8 oz. freshly brewed, strong, black coffee
4 oz. plain almond milk (or milk of your choice)
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup (or to taste)
4 to 5 drops of organic peppermint oil (or to taste)*
Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until hot. Stir the chocolate syrup and peppermint oil into the hot milk until thoroughly blended. Add coffee, and enjoy! Makes 1 serving.
Nutritional information for 1 serving as written: 67 calories, 3.4 g fat, 12.8 g carbs, 9.4 g sugars, 2.4 g protein.
*Addendum: Since posting this recipe, I have made the happy discovery that replacing the peppermint oil with orange extract makes my morning coffee taste like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Delicious childhood nostalgia!