Spiked Whipped Cream Hot Cocoa

I have not been acting like myself lately. 

Personality-wise, not much has changed (including the usual giddy spurts when I’m with my sister). But in terms of my meals and sleep schedule, I am wayyy off. The holiday season will do that to you though.
Example A: I am up writing this post at 2:10am. Ummmmm…normally I am on Dream #3 by this point in the night. So you might be wondering why I’m still awake. Well, Brooke and I went to see the late night showing of Les Miserables. It was really good! I am usually not one for musicals, but I had a feeling I would like this one and I was right.

Example B: I only had two meals today- Brunch at the Lost Dog Cafe (we finally got to bring Zoey to my favorite dog-friendly restaurant!), then a long day of shopping before a late homemade dinner. I am so used to not only planning my meals, but having three solid meals throughout the day, with a snack squeezed in there too.

I just about went crazy. But not really. I was having such a good time going on a jog with my step-dad and shopping with my mom and sister that the day just flew by.

When dinner was over, I was excited to experiment to come up with a hot chocolatey drink for dessert. I was a bit of a hot mess. No pun intended. First, the milk in the saucepan boiled over. Then, I was a genius and poured the scolding hot liquid into a metal drink shaker that had absolutely zero heat resistance causing me to burn my finger tips.

Don’t worry. Out of those minor mishaps came a delicious drink perfect for a cold day. I used Sweet’N Low to add sweetness without the calories. By using almond milk instead of dairy milk, you can save even more. A serving of this drink will only set you back about 150 calories.

Take that __________! {<–insert name of any coffee shop or restaurant with extremely high calorie hot chocolate drinks!)


Disclaimer: This post is part of a DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program with Sweet’N Low. Although I received a stipend for the products involved, the thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Spiked Whipped Cream Hot Cocoa

Makes 1 12-ounce serving

1 1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk of choice)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 packets Sweet’N Low
1 shot whipped cream vodka

1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cocoa powder, and Sweet’N Low. Place on stovetop over medium heat and stir continuously. Bring to a simmer and turn heat to low. Continue to let simmer another 1-2 minutes.
2. Turn heat off and add shot of vodka. Stir vigorously.
3. Pour into glass or mug immediately and enjoy!

Highlights of Christmas

Hello again! I’ve been MIA for quite awhile, but have lots of fun things to share.

Over the past week or so, I have gone to North Carolina, Ohio, back for a quick stop in NC, and now back home to Charleston.

My past week has included Starbuck’s oatmeal for breakfast at the airport, several bowls of hot soup, Chobani, lots of hot coffee, and a few sips here and there of Greg’s margaritas.

I had a grand plan to bake a Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake, but one thing after another made my plan fall apart. First of all, the chocolate cakes both stuck to the pans. While trying to get them out, one of the cakes crumbled into pieces. 

After some brainstorming and suggestions from people replying to my Instagram post, I thought cake pops could be a great use for the crumbled cake. But I was already in the process of making the cheesecake layer and was helping with several other dishes for dinner. I wasn’t really in the mood to put in much more effort for cake pops, so I simply used a rubber spatula to press the cake into small dessert dishes. I topped with frosting and sprinkles and we were good to go! Despite the cake falling apart on me, it still was very delicious.

Now that the cheesecake layer that I had already begun making didn’t have chocolate cake to go around it, I decided to bake it in a chocolate graham cracker crust and serve the cheesecake by itself. It too was delicious.

It was so nice to be reunited with all of my siblings again. Love them. We always have a great time together, maybe a little too much fun.

No. Not possible actually.

It snowed several inches while up in Ohio and I was FUR-EAZ-ING. Greg kept wanting to play in the snow, but I refused. I did join him outside for a few minutes while he shoveled the driveway. I’m a baby and didn’t last long.

Ironically, my drink of choice that day was a cold fruit smoothie made in the Vitamix my siblings and I got my mom for Christmas. I used an apple, banana, pineapple, and vanilla Chobani. The Vitamix blended it up in no time and my smoothie disappeared just as quickly.

I hope you all had a great Christmas or whatever other holiday you may have celebrated. I knew it was going to go quickly as it always does, but it feels good to be back home.

The fun isn’t quite over yet though. My mom, step-dad, and sister Brooke came back to Charleston with me. I am looking forward to a few days of bridesmaid dress shopping, walking around downtown and more quality family time before heading back to work after we ring in the New Year.

A Christmas Survey

Good morning! I am getting a few hours of work in this morning before hitting the road for North Carolina this afternoon. Greg and I will spend a few days with his family, then will fly to Ohio to be with my family for a couple of days, then driving back home to Charleston for New Years with some of my family (while Greg will stay up north for a ski trip with his groomsmen). Whew. Lots of traveling going around here! But it’s going to be a great time and I cannot wait. I also know it’s going to go so quickly so I want to just enjoy it and soak it in as much as possible.

With a lot of sweet and heavy food to look forward to in next week, I thought I’d keep things a little lighter around here today 😉

Favorite Christmas Album/CD/Song?

Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You. Never gets old for me! Go ahead and click “play” while you read the rest of this post!

Run on Christmas morning or take the day off? 

Day OFF! If I were in Charleston for Christmas, that would be one thing. But the bitter cold Ohio winters do not lend well to outdoor activities for someone who is always freezing, like me. I am not used to the cold at all anymore and when I am cold, I want nothing more than to be bundled up in a sweater, under a blanket, drinking something warm. Although, a couple of years ago Greg and I did go skiing on Christmas night. I was still freezing and preferred to take long breaks by the fire, but we had a good time 🙂

What do you usually eat on Christmas morning? 

My family always goes to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, then goes back to my mom’s house to open presents that night (morning?). We don’t get to bed until 2-3am so sleeping in on Christmas is a must. Although, that doesn’t mean too much to me anymore since I wake up by 7:30 even when I try to sleep in. My step-dad cooks a pancake breakfast before my siblings and I go to my dad’s house for the rest of the day...where more food is served!

Favorite holiday or Christmas tradition? 

In conjunction with what I said above, I love my family’s tradition of midnight service, followed by opening presents in the middle of the night...one of the perks of having a split family (not that I recommend it in any way). There may or may not be some cookies and other treats involved throughout the night as well. But before all of that, we spend the evening with my mom’s entire side of the family at my aunt and uncle’s house playing games, watching Christmas movies and eating take-out Chinese food. 


Real tree, fake tree or no tree?

Growing up, my family always had a fake tree. For the past two years now, Greg and I have bought real trees and I have to say, I love it! I don’t know if I will go back to a fake. That is, as long as Greg continues to do the heavy lifting ;)

Christmas pajamas… yay or nay? 

I am all for some cute, cozy PJs, but my family or I never dresses up in festive sleepwear. We change into comfy sweats as soon as we get home from church (as seen above), but no candy cane or Santa prints. 

Food that you always have during the holiday season? Favorite Christmas food/treat?

Snickerdoodles and sugar cookie cut-outs are the first treats that come to mind for this one. Baking with the little ones is always so much more fun. Although, then you have to compete for who gets to lick the wooden spoon!

Open presents all at once or take turns?

Take turns! We go around and each person opens one at a time, rotating around the room until all presents have been opened. 
Favorite Christmas(ish) movie?   

I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carey. Love, love, love. Elf is a close second, but I have to say, I kind of feel like it’s been over shown at this point :/

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

I have a problem. I think I’m truly addicted to chocolate. That is possible, right? Chocolate has caffeine and caffeine is an addictive substance. There may be more to it than that, I’m honestly not really sure. But suddenly I feel like my love for chocolate has turned into an addiction. 
After I dipped all of my pretzels, I still had a half pot of melted chocolate on the stove. So I melted too much to begin with. What is one to do? Dip more things in chocolate. 

I yelled, “What else can I dip in chocolate?!” and then I proceeded to rummage through the fridge and pantry to find anything else I could dip.

I wasn’t very successful at finding anything. The week before leaving for vacation means a very skimpy food supply. So now I have a bowl of hardened chocolate. So lonely. Poor thing. Just a lonnnnnnely chunk of chocolate.

I wish it would stop looking at me. My chocolate addiction is easily tempted. I know in just a few days I’ll be home, eating cookie after cookie, one chocolate something-or-other after another, so I’m trying to maintain control while I still can.

Mission impossible.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

Makes 10 servings

10 jumbo pretzel twists
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon shortening
~1/4 cup assorted sprinkles for topping

1. Fill a medium saucepan about 1/3 full with water. Place a medium or small sized bowl on top of the pot so sits down about halfway. Add chocolate chips and shortening. Place pot on stove top over medium-low heat. As chocolate begins to melt, stir frequently and vigorously until ingredients are completely melted and smooth, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Carefully drop pretzels into chocolate, one at a time, and place on cookie sheet. Immediately top with sprinkles.
3. Once all pretzels are dipped (or once the cookie sheet is full), place in fridge to harden for up to 2 hours. Once completely hardened, you may remove from fridge and store at room temperature.

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Cookie time!
Pretty much synonymous with Christmas time, huh? 
Frosted sugar cookie cut-outs and snickerdoodles are always at the top of my Christmas cookie list, but this year I was ready to invite a new guest to the party. With the same flavor of a gingersnap, I was tempted to call these “gingerchews.” The spices warm your soul, especially if you eat one along with a hot cup of chai tea. Or a glass of milk. Either way, you’re living the good life. 
Speaking of the good life…
A puppy sleeping on my lap. The Christmas tree lit up behind me. My fiancé by my side. How the Grinch Stole Christmas on TV. 
Yeah, that’s good. 

Chewy Ginger Cookies
(Adapted from The Baker Chick)

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons honey
Additional 2-3 tablespoons sugar for rolling

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, beat butter and sugars until smooth. While on low speed, incorporate the egg, water and honey (one item at a time). Beat until well incorporated. Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture while beating continuously on medium-low speed. Stop as needed to scrap down the sides of the bowl. Turn up speed and beat about one minute.
3. Place bowl in the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes.
4. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees and spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Roll dough into balls, about one tablespoon in size, and roll in sugar. Place dough balls 2-3 inches apart on cookie sheet. Gently press down with the bottom of a glass (or any other flat, smooth surface). Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit on pan for about 5 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Weekend Eats 12-17-12

We are so close to Christmas/vacation time that this particular Monday morning doesn’t feel too bad at all! All weekend I found myself saying things like, “This is the last Friday night we’re in Charleston until after Christmas!” and, “This is the last Saturday we’re in Charleston until after Christmas!” and, “This is the last Sunday….” 

Okay, you get it. 
I’m excited. Can you blame me? I know you are too, right?! 
I kicked off the weekend by cooking a pot of my Tempeh and Bean Chili, with a few modifications. I subbed black beans for the red kidney beans, skipped the garlic, and used a can of diced tomatoes with chili peppers rather than using tomato sauce. 
 I love this stuff. It’s so filling and full of nutrients, not to mention just plain delicious. Win win win!
On Saturday, Greg and I spend most of the late morning and afternoon running errands. It wasn’t too long before we were ready to refuel and grabbed lunch from Chick Fil A. 
I got the Southwest Chargrilled Salad with Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing…surprise, surprise. 
Saturday night was spent at my company holiday party at an art museum downtown. We had a great time. I sipped on wine while eating a mini roll with turkey and cranberry sauce and a pork slider on a delicious little biscuit. There was also a do-it-yourself mashed potato bar. Think: Menchie’s (or any other self-serve frozen yogurt place), but for mashed potatoes. Toppings included gravy, shredded cheese, chives, sour cream, sauteed mushrooms, etc. So fun! 
I spent Sunday creating a few different holiday treats. I’ll be sharing those in more detail later this week, but here’s a preview…
Finally, Greg made venison patties for dinner with meat one of his clients gave him (just like last year). 
I feel so adventurous when I eat venison. Kind of like a cave woman too. Regardless, it’s pretty good. And even though I had already eaten more meat over the weekend than I normally like to, Greg made a point that it’s lean and just about as organic as you can get. 
Okay, fine. 😉
What was the tastiest part of your weekend?