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      Celebrate the holidays—or any day—with slow cooker hot chocolate

      Celebrate the holidays—or any day—with slow cooker hot chocolate

      Love to drink your chocolate? The ancient Aztecs may have loved it even more. Montezuma II, the last Aztec emperor, is said to have consumed 50 cups of liquid chocolate every day for good health. Sounds downright heavenly, though the sweet and creamy hot cocoa we enjoy today bears little resemblance to the cold and spicy chocolate beverage he downed daily. The Aztecs, like many ancient cultures, believed that chocolate had medicinal properties and even spiritual powers. Elite members of Mayan societies were often buried with chocolate and the pots used to mix the elixir.

      Stories like these bolster the belief that both chocolate and the habit of drinking chocolate originated in Mexico. But the first chocolate was probably cultivated in the Amazon rain forest some 5,300 years ago. Cocoa beans and the beverage derived from them spread from South America to Central America, where chocolate became an important part of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Spanish explorers are thought to have brought cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making tools to Spain in the 1500s. The beverage then spread throughout Europe and began to be served hot, creamy and sweetened.

      Thoroughly modern: Slow cooker hot chocolate

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      Fast forward to the twenty-first century: the emperor’s medicinal beverage has seen its share of reinventions, and hot chocolate, served sweet, spicy-sweet or spiked, is a favorite winter and holiday beverage all over the world, especially in Europe and the Americas. While drinking 50 cups of chocolate every day is not recommended, a cup or two, particularly on chilly afternoons or evenings, might make short winter days a little cheerier.

      To make it easy to prepare large batches of hot chocolate for your family or holiday guests, the Hamilton Beach test kitchen has created a delicious slow cooker hot chocolate recipe that can stay warm for hours without burning or curdling. And with slow cooker hot chocolate, you can simply let guests serve themselves right from the crock. To make it even more festive, create a hot chocolate board filled with accents for the hot cocoa, like marshmallows, sprinkles, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Add some cookies, candy canes and chocolate bark to snack on or garnish drinks, along with peppermint, caramel and chocolate mint candies. It's a simple, delightful way to entertain both expected and unexpected guests during the holidays.

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      And who knows? Chocolate may indeed have some health benefits. It certainly seems to make us feel better.

      Here's how to make Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate.

      Explore 8 great cookie recipes to make with the kids.

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