Hello, Darlings!

Aubree Holmes, here. I’m back with another installment of clean and festive holiday recipes to please a (somewhat persnickety) crowd. For your enjoyment during this blessed reprieve between holiday preparations, a couple treats for a cozy fireside evening with family and friends seems perfectly fitting. 

Today I share with you Peppermint Hot Cacao with Maple Marshmallows—a warm and wintry delight free of dairy and refined sugar that will most certainly please guests of all ages. Not only are these recipes super fun to make and serve, but they won’t give your guests (or children) the sugar spike and crash so often experienced during the holidays.

Before we get into the recipes I want to take a moment to share with you why it’s important to choose the highest quality ingredients you can find, particularly during the holidays when tempting (and inflammatory) sugary sweets are around every turn. Let me restate: I am not here to focus on strict dietary protocols, although I certainly know they have their time and place of importance. I am one for balance, and finding this balance is unique to everyone.

That being said, after years of journeying to discover what balance means for me, I have learned again and again that my overall well-being and energy benefit from choosing healthy alternatives to refined sugar and dairy that don’t leave me—or my family and friends—feeling deprived. As many of us already know, sugars are metabolized very quickly, especially refined sugar, causing a spike and ensuing crash that leaves us depleted and feeling pretty low. I’ve found that making the change from refined sugar to unrefined sugar in my day-to-day cooking is actually quite simple and very much worth the swap. Don’t get me wrong, unrefined sugar is still sugar, and ultimately processed as so in your body, BUT if you’re going to use a sweetener in moderation, you might as well make the simple swap to an unrefined option that has a bit more nutritional value and will minimize the sugar spike. 

To add sweetness and richness to this version of Peppermint Hot Cacao and Maple Marshmallows, I use maple syrup because it has a bit more nutritional value than the standard refined sugar and is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Most powdered hot chocolate relies on processed cocoa powder, but this Peppermint Hot Cacao uses unrefined and minimally processed raw cacao powder to pack in more potent nutritional benefits with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. When I feel like an extra boost, I’ll add in additional beneficial ingredients like adaptogenic maca. 

This is also a good moment to speak to the importance of choosing a clean, non-dairy milk—or making your own! Check out the label of any nut or oat milk you’re purchasing to find one that uses whole food ingredients and is free of additives like gums, oils, and sweeteners. 

Most of us are aware that traditional store-bought marshmallows are made with low-quality gelatin and corn syrup. For these Maple Marshmallows, I use a high-quality grass-fed beef gelatin that benefits your bones, hair, skin and joints. You can also find a vegan gelatin! And like the Hot Cacao, I use maple syrup as my sweetener. For bonus points, these marshmallows also make for an excellent homemade holiday gift!

My friends and family who try my Peppermint Hot Cacao with Maple Marshmallows tell me it’s better than the “real” thing–I hope you’ll try it yourself using the recipe below! You can reach out to me on Instagram @aubreeholmes and tell me how it goes. And for more seasonal recipes and musings, please sign up for my newsletter at www.aubreeholmes.com

With gratitude,


Peppermint Hot Cacao 


1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cacao butter, optional 

1 ½ teaspoons maca powder, optional



In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer.

Whisk in the cacao powder until well incorporated.

Whisk in the maple syrup, salt, peppermint extract and vanilla extract. If using, stir in the maca and cacao butter until fully incorporated

Serve right away with a Maple Marshmallow (recipe below). 


Maple Marshmallows


3 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin powder or vegan gelatin powder

1 cup water

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or tapioca flour



In a large bowl, whisk together the gelatin, ½ cup water, and vanilla extract. Let gelatin bloom for at least 5 minutes while making the maple syrup mixture.

Meanwhile, line an 8” x 8” baking dish with parchment paper and dust the bottom with arrowroot powder. Set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, whisk together the maple syrup, salt and remaining ½ cup water, stirring until the syrup begins to boil. Lower the temperature slightly if it begins to foam over. Place a candy thermometer in the saucepan and continue to cook the syrup mixture until the temperature reaches 240 degrees, about 12-15 minutes.

Slowly pour the syrup mixture into the bowl of bloomed gelatin while beating with an electric mixer on low speed. Once all of the maple syrup mixture has been added to the gelatin, bring the electric mixer to high speed and continue to beat until the mixture is light in color, opaque and thickened, about 10 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, quickly pour the marshmallow mixture into a prepared baking pan. This needs to be done quickly or the marshmallow will begin to cool and set making it difficult to spread across the pan. Dust the top of the marshmallow with arrowroot powder.

Let the marshmallow sit at room temperature for 4-6 hours or overnight before cutting into cubes or using cookie cutters to create your preferred shape. Dust each marshmallow with more arrowroot powder and serve with Peppermint Hot Cacao (recipe above) or your favorite apple cider.

Store in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks or wrap up nicely and gift away!


All images via Carla Choy

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