Peppermint—Perfect for the Holiday Season

by Amy Swiger and Family Features

Move over pumpkin spice, peppermint is here! Whether enjoyed in steaming holiday beverages, baked into gooey cookies, or infused into yummy candy canes, peppermint is the poster child of the winter months.

Peppermint, a mix between spearmint and watermint, is a plant that sports several qualities that are beneficial in supporting our health. First, menthol, an active ingredient in the mint species, acts as a cooling agent (this explains the ‘cold’ sensation you may experience when drinking a beverage while/after chewing peppermint gum, or applying substances with mint to the skin.) Because of this, menthol has been used in some instances to help alleviate muscle pain and nerve pain (Menthol is an active ingredient in the topical Icy/Hot patches.) Additionally, the oil extracted from peppermint has been used throughout history to help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and upset stomach. Delicious and beneficial for our health? That’s mint to be, if you ask us!

Happy Holidays from Central California Parent! Enjoy these peppermint recipes with your loved ones this holiday season.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
(4 servings, courtesy of Food Network)

• 4 cups whole or low-fat milk
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 4 oz. chocolate (white, dark, milk), chopped finely
• 3 tablespoons crushed peppermint sticks, more for garnish (and for nibbling!)
• Salt (pinch, to taste)
• Whipped cream

1. Heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming
2. Combine cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate, crushed peppermint, and salt together in a bowl
3. Whisk this mixture in with the milk/vanilla mixture
4. Reduce stove heat to low, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture thickens, approximately 2 minutes
5. Divide amongst 4 mugs, top with whip cream and peppermint flakes

Peppermint Shortbread Cookies
(40 servings, courtesy of Rachel Gurk of “Rachel Cooks” on behalf of Milk Means More)

• 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup peppermint crunch baking chips

1. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Gradually add flour and mix on low until combined. Add baking chips and continue mixing on low until fully combined.
2. On wax or parchment paper, form dough into a 12-14 inch log and freeze for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.
3. Heat oven to 350° F.
4. Cut shortbread dough into 1/4-inch slices and bake 13-15 minutes on parchment-lined baking sheets.

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