For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead-poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
For the holidays, today I am going to share my first recipe with you (more will come!). This one is for hot cocoa! We’ll call it “Lead-Safe Hot Cocoa” for fun because the choices I have made specifically keep any potential Lead contamination to a minimum (cocoa/chocolate being generally one of the more commonly Lead-tainted food items)!
I’ll start with a photo and shopping list (with details at the bottom)!
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Shopping List/ All Things I Use
- Organic Vanilla Extract (I use “Singing Dog” — Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free)
- Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I use Holy Kakow!)
- Organic Honey (I’ve been using Trader Joe’s)
- Organic Milk (or organic WestSoy unsweetened soy milk — cheaper at Trader Joe’s!)
- Organic Ground Cinnamon (from Simply Organic)
- Natural Vegan Dandies Marshmallows
- Stainless Stovetop Safe Cooking Measuring Pitcher (Norpro — 8 cup)
- Stainless Measuring Cups (mine are Amco and I have had them for nearly 15 years)
- Wooden Spoon
- Lead-free plates for setting things on (instead of my Leaded-tile counter!)
- Lead-Free Clear Glass Mugs
- Stainless Spoons & Stainless (or glass!) Straws for the kids
- Ball jars for storing dry goods (once the bag of cocoa is open)! We store all of our dry goods in vacuum-sealed jars.
In terms of Lead-free or Lead-safe, the most important thing is the cocoa. If you have seen my film, you know that chocolate is one of the food items with the highest Lead levels.
In the creation of chocolate products, Lead has the potential to be added at every step in the manufacturing process.
It is for this reason I look for the following qualities in cocoa products (to help ensure the lowest Lead content):
- responsibly sourced (ideally single-source cocoa beans)
- locally (U.S) made (smaller companies have more pride of ownership and accountability)
- locally (and minimally) processed
- single-ingredient cocoa products (cocoa nibs or cocoa powder)
1. are the one to add the dairy products (or non-dairy substitutes), the sugar (or alternative sweetener), the vanilla, the salt, and other ingredients that a cocoa manufacturer might otherwise add, then you have control over these items’ sources — and there is less “machine-ing” of the final product. Industrial processing equipment plays a large role in the contamination of foods: Lead often contaminates processed ingredients due to the wear and tear of Leaded-brass machine components (used for their inherent “self-lubricating” quality — a quality needed for machines with lots of moving parts) during manufacturing, so if you limit the products that have been machine-processed (or machine-combined with other ingredients) by
2. using Lead-free cookware, you automatically reduce the potential amount of Lead in your finished product.
Cocoa products processed here in the USA are also less likely to have Lead contamination from the manufacturing process as machines here are in most cases newer and therefore less likely to have Leaded components when compared to older (and even many newer) equivalent machines in Central or South America — or China or Africa for that matter. (There are other low-Lead or Lead-free choices in my ingredients list, but the article would be too long if I were to go into it all in full detail. Lol!)
How I make my cocoa… well… I don’t bother measuring things too much, actually (I’m a “seat-of-the-pants” baker) so bring an improvisatory attitude and make adjustments to taste!
- Fill the pitcher about 2/3 or 3/4 full with milk (or soymilk, nut, or grain milk of your choice) & start warming on LOW flame.
- Warm about 1/4 cup of honey (more or less to taste), add to milk, and stir slowly.
- Add in about 3/8 of a cup of cocoa (first a full 1/4 cup and mix in and then half of that again if you want it darker).
- Shake in a little salt (maybe a 1/4 teaspoon or less — to taste).
- Add a few shakes of ground organic cinnamon.
- Add a splash of vanilla (towards the end of cooking so it doesn’t fully evaporate)… I tend to make my splashes generous — so maybe a teaspoon? Maybe two?
- Stir periodically — and then once it starts getting hot, stir constantly with your spatula (or a stainless whisk if you prefer)
- Remove from heat BEFORE it starts to boil or burn (very important — lol) and wait a few minutes before pouring it into your Lead-free glass coffee mugs!
- Add a couple of vegan marshmallows, and serve! 😉
- NOTE: My tile kitchen’s tiled counters have tested positive for Lead (and we lack the funds to remodel!) so I always set all my ingredients out on a cutting board and then use a Lead-free plate next to the stove to set my mixing spoon and measuring cups on while cooking.
I always serve the cocoa at the beginning of a meal (while I am cooking other things) — so the kids are not “starving”/ crazy while I am cooking… I know that’s “backward,” but we do a lot of things backward around here!
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Please also let me know if you want to see more of this type of piece!
Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Mother of Lead-poisoned kids