Hot Chocolate for the Florida Cold

Sorry for the delay with this week’s post. I’ve had guests back to back for the past two weeks, so I haven’t done much in the way of cooking. I did, however, make peanut butter cups and meatball sliders for two Halloween events. I cheated on the slider recipe by using premade meatballs (I know, I know. I’m a horrible person. But I was in a rush!) but I might post the recipe this week anyway.

The South has had a bit of a drop in temperature this weekend , so to celebrate Florida cold–it was 65 degrees yesterday so boot weather >.>–I made up a batch of hot chocolate. I’ve got a lot of friends who LOVE hot chocolate, so they were quick to toss out much appreciated tips! The orange extract tip comes from Julie and the cinnamon sticks tip comes from Jonathon. So thanks, guys :)!

Hot Chocolate


  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 blocks of 4.5 oz Hershey dark chocolate, crumbled
  • 4 blocks of 4.5 oz Hershey milk chocolate, crumbled
  • 2 blocks of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa baking chocolate, crumbled
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1/4 tsp espresso
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Cinnamon sticks


  1. Combine whipping cream, milk, and sugar in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly and vigorously for 4 to 5 minutes (do NOT bring to a boil. We only want to heat the liquids.)
  2. Stir in vanilla and orange extracts.
  3. Add espresso and salt and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until dissolved completely.
  4. Add chocolates to mixture and stir over medium heat for 1 to 2  minutes or until completely melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 1 additional minute.
  5. Pour hot chocolate into your favorite mug, add a cinnamon stick, and sit down with a good book (I’m reading The Time in Between by Maria Duenas). Enjoy!


My office is cold. Very, very cold. It’s 85 degrees in Orlando, but it’s 70 degrees in the office (and I happen to sit under the vent. Yay, me!) To counter the cold, I’ve taken to wearing gloves, a jacket, and a jacketblanket (c). I drive home with the air conditioner off and with great appreciation for the Florida sun.  To warm up, I thought a nice of bowl of chili might be in order.

I took a hint from my Granny’s Lasagna recipe and combined beef with Italian sausage. There’s a mix of kidney beans and black beans. I wanted a bit of a kick, so I added Tabasco :).

Chili (with a bit of a kick)


  • 1 1/2 tbsps chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 16 oz can kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco/hot sauce
  • 8 oz ground beef
  • 4 oz Italian sausage
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 6 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
  • Corn, for topping


  1. Combine chili, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, 1/4 tsp sea salt, and cumin in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook ground beef on stovetop and over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked. Drain and set aside.
  3. Cook Italian sausage on stovetop and over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked. Drain and set aside.
  4. Sautee green bell pepper, olive oil, minced garlic, sugar, and 1/2 tsp sea salt in a large dutch oven over medium heat until aromatic and soft (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add ground beef and Italian sausage to bell pepper/garlic mixture. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, hot sauce, and water. Add the chili/cayenne/etc mixture from step one and stir. Reduce to a low heat.
  6. Cook on the lowest heat setting for 20-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Top with cheddar cheese and corn. Serve hot!

Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese Sandwich

It was 75 degrees in Orlando this weekend, and that means that fall is officially here. Sure, it was still hot because of all the sunshine (and to be honest, I was tempted to go to the pool), but we can’t ask for much cooler weather in early October.

As mentioned in a previous post, fall is my favorite time of the year, so I spent the weekend decorating for it (I went a little crazy. I’ll repent this weekend?) I put away my airy blue accessories in favor of pumpkins, citrus potpourri, and a touch of black (Halloween’s coming, after all). With the house fully decorated, all that was left was the meal.

Nothing screams “it’s getting colder!” like tomato soup. It’s rich, it’s filling, and it’s a lovely shade of fall. For this particular recipe, I suggest making the soup one day in advance so that the sugar has time to do its thing.

Tomato Soup



  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 28 oz plum tomatoes
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 3 tbsps Swanson Mexican Tortilla Broth
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tbsps coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp Tabasco


  1. In a large saucepan, sautee garlic and onions in butter and olive oil over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Reduce to medium heat.
  2. Add both kinds to tomatoes to garlic/onion mixture and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add chicken and tortilla broth. Add pepper, salt, basil leaves, and Tabasco. Cook on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes and then reduce to low heat. Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Remove soup from stovetop. Add soup to a blender, filling blender about 1/2 way. Pulse soup for at least 30 seconds, or until smooth.
  5. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve later :).


Grilled Cheese Sandwich


  • 2 slices of Italian bread
  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese
  • 1 slice of white cheddar cheese (or provolone)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tbsp butter, divided


  1. Assemble sandwich.
  2. Add 1/2 of the olive oil and half of the butter to a small skillet. Place skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the sandwich to butter/oil when butter/oil is hot. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Add remaining butter and olive oil and flip the sandwich.
  5. Repeat step 3.



On a side note, this paired perfectly with the premiere of The Flash :)!

Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s officially my favorite time of the year–FALL! It’s time the for holidays (here’s looking at you, Halloween and Thanksgiving) and comfort food, so you can bet I’ll be spending the next two months cooking up a storm. Well, four months. Let’s throw winter in there, too, seeing as how fall and winter are a pair.

I’m still on a peanut butter high (yup) and since I really liked the way those peanut butter cups turned out, I decided to make peanut butter cookies. I’ve never been a huge fan of pb cookies, but I thought that adding a bit of powdered sugar–the thing that makes peanut butter cups so delicious–might help with that, and I think I had the right idea. Top these cookies with sugar and chocolate, and all is well.

I think I’ll add orange frosting to the next batch and make them Halloween-themed :)!

Peanut Butter Cookies


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup bread flour
  • 2 tsps sugar, for rolling


  1. Cream butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl on low speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Add flours, baking powder, baking salt, and salt to butter/sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
  5. Shape dough into balls and roll into sugar.
  6. Place dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake on 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cookies are a light, golden color. If adding Hershey’s kisses, press kiss into the center of the cookie immediately after removing the cookie from the oven.

Once Upon a Lasagna

If you’ve seen my other blog (or dug deep enough in this one) then you might have figured out that I’m a geek about many, many things. Well, one such thing is fairytales. I grew up on Disney, so it’s no shocker that I get pretty nostalgic when someone even mentions Beauty and the Beast or Pocahontas.

And then there was Once Upon a Time. The writing leaves a lot to be desired, but it has all my favorite characters and that’s just enough of a reason for me to continue to watch it. If you’re familiar with the show then you know that Granny of “Little Red Riding Hood” fame owns a diner (and that she’s, well, kind of awesome).

So in honor of the grandmother who’s a bit more spice than she is nice, I decided to make her famous lasagna–with a bit of a kick.

Granny’s Lasagna



  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 10 ounces mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp chopped yellow onions
  • 4.5 ounces lasagna pasta (about 8-10 pasta sheets), cooked


  • 23 ounces tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tbsp basil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Garlic Oil

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsps olive oil

Cheese Layer

  • 15-17 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used Sargento’s 6 Cheese Italian), divided
  • 3-4 slices of pepperjack cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg or 1-2 tsps olive oil


  1. Combine ground beef, Italian sausage, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and yellow onions in a nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink and is cooked throughout. Reduce to medium heat.
  2. Combine all ingredients listed under sauce in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with lid and cook over low heat for at least 3-5 minutes.
  3. Combine garlic and 2 tbsps of oil in a small skillet. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until garlic is aromatic. Add to sauce mixture and stir. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes
  4. Boil lasagna pasta per package instructions (or per preferred level of tenderness). Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Add sauce mixture to meat mixture. Stir and reduce to a simmer (at least 5 minutes).
  6. Combine ricotta, 1 cup of 6 Cheese Italian (or cheese of choice), and one egg or olive oil in a small bowl.
  7. If desired, lightly butter a 9×13 inch glass dish (otherwise, spray with nonstick spray or line with foil). Layer bottom of the dish with lasagna pasta.
  8. Top with layer of cheese mixture and then top with meat. Add another layer of pasta. Add another layer of cheese. Layer on meat.
  9. Top with remaining cup of 6 Cheese Italian. Shred (i.e. tear) pepperjack cheese on top of 6 Italian cheese.
  10. Bake on 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until thoroughly cooked throughout. Serve with garlic bread.

Note: For an extra kick, use spicy Italian sausage and up the red pepper flakes by another tablespoon.



Now then, who wants to eat seconds?

Granny wave

Chicken Teriyaki

I’m not exactly sure where this craving for teriyaki chicken came from. I’d never made teriyaki before (truly, this was a let’s-guess-at-the-ingredients-and-go-dish) and I actually think I may have created this just so I would have an excuse to combine candied bacon with candied red onions. And you know what? I’m not ashamed of that.

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  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 4 large chicken breasts, sliced in half
  • 2-3 tbsps brown sugar
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp mirin
  • 1/4 tsp red bell pepper flakes
  • 1/2 ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 slice provolone cheese (per sandwich) *
  • Sesame seed sandwich buns

* For a kick, add pepperjack

Additional Ingredients:

  • 2 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsps chopped red onion


  1. Wash chicken and place in a glass casserole dish.  Combine with all other ingredients listed in the “marinade” section. Cover with glass top and bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until juices run clear when cut.
  2. Turn stove top to medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon and brown sugar and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add red onions and cook until bacon and onions are done.
  3. Top bottom half of sesame seed bun with chicken, cheese, onions, and bacon. Bake on 350 degrees until cheese is thoroughly melted.
  4. Serve with a crisp caesar salad.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I just can’t get enough of bell peppers lately–on pizza, in potatoes, wherever. Usually my go-to bell pepper dish is chicken or beef stir fry, but I wanted to try a little something different this week to bid my summer days adieu. These stuffed bell peppers really hit the spot. They’re warm, filling, and perfect with tortilla strips.

do love summer comfort food.

Stuffed Bell Peppers


  • 5-6 bell peppers of various colors, cut in half
  • ½ uncooked cup white rice
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 16 ounces ground beef (roughly)
  • 3 tbsps salsa
  • 8 oz can pasta sauce
  • ¾ cup black beans
  • 1 cup corn
  • Mexican cheese to taste
  • Taco seasoning


  1. Cook rice using rice maker or on stovetop, following package instructions (For stovetop rice, I usually bring  2 cups of water to a boil, add rice, stir, and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat then turn to lower heat and cook until soft, roughly 10 or so minutes).
  2. Cook ground beef in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, chopping finely, until meat is thoroughly cooked and no longer pink. Drain.
  3. Pour meat into another non-stick skillet and combine with taco seasoning and roughly ¼ cup of water (if beef appears dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Reduce to a simmer and cook for roughly 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Cut bell peppers in half, de-seeding and removing the core. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from water and drain. Set aside.
  5. Sautee garlic in olive oil for about 3-4 minutes over medium-heat. Discard garlic but keep the oil.
  6. Add ground beef, rice, salsa, black beans, tomato sauce, and corn. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
  7. Line glass baking sheet with bell peppers. Scoop out meat/veggie/sauce mixture and stuff peppers.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes on 350 degrees.
  9. Cover bell peppers with Mexican cheese and bake for 1-2 additional minutes or until cheese is melted.
  10. Serve with tortilla strips.

Peanut Butter Cups

I’ve been craving peanut butter lately–and I’m always in the mood for chocolate–so I thought I’d play around with my peanut butter cup recipe. I have to say that I like this combination the best so far, and I believe it’s because of the milk chocolate/dark chocolate combination.

Peanut Butter Cups


  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp(s) melted butter
  • 4 ozs of milk chocolate, crushed
  • 4 ozs of dark chocolate, crushed
  • Sea salt, optional


  1. Place butter in a small bowl and melt butter in microwave (about 15 – 20 seconds).
  2. Add powdered sugar, peanut butter, and salt to melted butter and stir until well combined.
  3. Line a baking sheet with 12-13 mini muffin wrappers (the number of wrappers you fill will vary, depending on how much chocolate you eat beforehand).
  4. Add crushed milk chocolate and crushed dark chocolate to a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly until most of the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat immediately, and continue to stir until remaining chocolate has melted.
  5. Add a small amount of chocolate to each muffin wrapper (about 1-1  1/2 tsp of chocolate).
  6. Drop a small amount of the peanut butter mixture onto the chocolate in wrappers.
  7. Top peanut butter with another 1 – 1 1/2 tsp of chocolate.
  8. If desired, sprinkle a dash of sea salt onto peanut butter cups.
  9. Refrigerate for at least 30- 45 minutes or until chocolate has hardened.



Cajun Chicken Po Boy

It’s 100 degrees outside, but I’m still in the mood for something a little spicy. Last week’s cajun fries really hit a sweet spot with me, so I decided to try the same seasoning on a personal favorite, the Po Boy, and I wasn’t disappointed. Paired with lemon pepper fries and topped with provolone or pepperjack, this meal has just enough heat for a warm summer night.


Cajun Chicken Po Boy


  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 Chicken Breasts, cut in half


  1. Rinse and cut chicken breasts and place in a glass casserole dish (the type that comes with a lid).
  2. Drizzle chicken with olive oil.
  3. Combine all other ingredients and add to chicken, coating evenly on both sides. Cover dish with glass lid.
  4. Cook for 35-45 minutes on 425 degrees or until juices run clear.


  • 1 sub roll, lightly toasted
  • 1-2 slices of provolone or pepperjack cheese
  • 4-5 slices of green peppers, sauteed
  • 1/8 cup of onions
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • Cajun chicken


  1. Sautee onions in sugar and olive oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Sautee bell peppers for 3-5 minutes or until soft
  3. Shred 1-2 pieces of chicken and combine with onions and bell peppers. Place on top of sub roll.
  4. Add cheese to chicken/onion/bell pepper mixture and cook at 350 degrees for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.


Lemon Pepper Fries


  • 2 russet potatoes
  • Lemon pepper seasoning to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • about 24 ozs of canola oil
  1. Rinse potatoes and wipe with paper towel. Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks.
  2. Pour canola oil into a 8-10 inch cast iron skillet and heat to medium-high heat.
  3. Once oil is heated, place a handful of fries into the oil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Repeat until all fries are cooked.
  4. Sprinkle with lemon pepper, sea salt, and parsley.

Pizza Roll & Cajun Fries

I know it’s only Tuesday, but if you ask me, it’s never too early in the week for pizza, especially if it includes a side of cajun fries!

Pizza Dough and Toppings


  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsps granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • Oil, for greasing


  • Pepperonis
  • Sausages or sausage links, lightly peppered and sea salted
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder


  1. Mix flours into a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, add sugar, salt, and oil to the warm water. Add yeast to water mixture and stir. Cover for 2-3 minutes to let bubbles rise.
  3. Pour water mixture into flour. Knead the dough for roughly 3-5 minutes, or until softer and less sticky.
  4. Roll dough into ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm spot. Let dough rise for 1-1 ½ hour.
  5. Cook pepperonis and sausages on stovetop (do this roughly 10 minutes before dough is done rising).
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease pizza stone with olive oil if necessary.
  7. Separate pizza dough in half. Refrigerate half for use at a later date.
  8. Combine parslet, oregano, basil, and onion powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
  9. Roll out dough onto pizza stone and cut in half.
  10. Fill dough with cheese, sausage, and pepperonis. Close the sides and end pieces of the dough together to form a log shape. Flip dough over to hide creasing. Repeat with other roll.
  11. Top unbaked pizza roll with parsley mixture. Repeat with other roll. Cook for roughly 10-13 minutes or until pizza roll is golden brown on top.
  12. Serve with marinara/pizza sauce.
Cajun Fries

cajun fries


  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper
  • 2 russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into strips


  1. Rinse potatoes and wipe with paper towel. Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium-sized bowl and add all other ingredients, mixing well.
  3. Bake at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes–or until fries are golden brown–rotating halfway through.