Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa

It’s February, so it is cold outside. Hot chocolate always sounds good when it is like this. What is more fun right now than planning some Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa for yourself or to give as gifts? Here are 20 ways to enjoy it for the holiday.

Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa

Here are some hot cocoa recipes that enhance the chocolate flavor in some way.

Chocolate Cherry Hot CocoaA Cultivated Nest likes to serve up this homemade hot chocolate in heart mugs. Use cocoa powder, chocolate chips, a bit of vanilla extract, and some maraschino juice for the cherry flavoring when you mix it in milk.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Hot Chocolate Tastes of Lizzy T starts with maraschino juice and then brews a K-cup of Starbucks hot chocolate. Top it off with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and a maraschino cherry.

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate – Red velvet cake is fantastic, so you know this hot chocolate also will be. In fact, My Recipe Magic uses a bit of red velvet cake mix for the flavoring.

Strawberry Sweethearts CocoaTwo Peas and Their Pod uses strawberry ice cream for added flavor in this drink, making it like hot cocoa and a strawberry milkshake had a baby!

French Hot Chocolate – When you think of France, you think of romance. And chocolate over there just tastes better. This recipe from Well Plated uses whole milk and heavy cream to make the melted chocolate even creamier, and recommends espresso powder for an added kick and flavor.

Hot Chocolate on a Stick – Milk chocolate, honey, vanilla, and your choice of milk are melted together and then frozen in a mold with a stick in it. Sugar and Charm has then stirred the sticks into all kinds of milk and then added different toppings along the way.

Cardamom Hot Chocolate with Rosewater Marshmallows – Add cardamom to your hot chocolate for a bit of an added kick. Then The Baking Bird teaches you how to make your own marshmallows made with fresh rosewater.

Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa White Chocolate

White chocolate is the perfect alternative to darker chocolate, and is actually preferred by many people. These are a few fun white hot chocolate recipes that will hit the spot this holiday.

Raspberry White Hot Chocolate – Use raspberry extract to give the melted white chocolate a fruity kick in this recipe from Sweet Lil You.

Conversation Heart CocoaSmart Schoolhouse uses strawberry Nesquick and white chocolate chips as the white hot chocolate base and then dips the rim of the mug in crushed conversation hearts.

Strawberry Hot Cocoa on a Stick – I love this idea on Betty Crocker. Melt white chocolate chips and mix with strawberry mix before letting the mixture cool in silicone molds with spoons. When you’re ready to make your drink, you stir them into hot milk.

Pink Velvet Hot Chocolate – This one by Dorky’s Deals gets its velvet flavor from strawberry syrup or strawberry puree and cream cheese all mixed with the white chocolate. It just sounds fantastic.

Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Gifts

Chocolate is meant as a symbol of love, so what greater gift to give for Valentine’s Day? And because it is cold outside, I would definitely go for a hot cocoa gift. I mean, practicality is just as much of a good idea.

Cupid’s Cocoa – Make a baggie that holds a packet of hot cocoa, pink and white marshmallows, and then top it off with this printable from Nellie Bellie.

You Warm My Heart Valentine – Dip spoons in melted chocolate and sprinkles to put in a bag with a packet of hot cocoa and marshmallows. And then this one can be topped off with a printable from 11 Magnolia Lane.

You Warm My Heart – Make a homemade hot cocoa mix that you place in a mug and add this printable from Unexpected Elegance.

Valentine’s Day Hot Chocolate Mix Mason Jar Cutefetti has these layered jars that also include pink sugar.

Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Bars

A new trend is setting up a hot cocoa bar in your home, so that people can make their hot chocolate the way that they want. Here are a few ideas for inspiration.

Valentine’s Day Hot Chocolate BarStone Gable Blog set up a rustic looking area, complete with bandannas as cozies. After pouring hot chocolate, use a chocolate spoon for added chocolate and then top it off with sprinkles, candy hearts or marshmallows. You can see her recipes and tutorials on her site.

Valentine’s Day Ideas for a Hot Chocolate BarSweet and Simple Living likes to set this up for when the kids come home. She likes to do things like cutting out heart shapes from jumbo peppermint marshmallows and then filling them in with melted chocolate. You can also coat marshmallows and spoons with chocolate. Use her free printable to tie it all together.

Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Bar With Pink Hot Cocoa Dukes and Duchesses sets up a hot cocoa bar with whipped cream, heart shaped marshmallows, red hots, and sprinkles. Follow her instructions for some fun decorations in the background, as well as other fun hot cocoa bar ideas.

Hot Cocoa Bar and Marshmallow DIY Oh Happy Day sets up her bar with four different flavors of hot cocoa, lots of toppings, and plenty of homemade marshmallows. She teaches you how to make striped marshmallows right at home for a customized fun topping.

Hot Cocoa Bar for Valentine’s Day – There are so many things that you can put on top of your hot cocoa, like peppermints, peanut butter cups, more chocolate. ReMarkable Home has all kinds of fun ideas, plus free printables to help you label your bar.

Pound Cake French Toast

One of the things I love the most about the Rochester area is the abundance of locally owned, amazing restaurants. I mean, who wants to cook for one with all of this goodness at my fingertips? I tend to do the healthier thing during the week, by eating a bowl of oatmeal or a Clif bar for breakfast at work. But come the weekend, I want something big and satisfying and a little unique. Thank you, Country Club Diner, for teaching me about pound cake French toast!

Wait, pound cake French toast?

Yes, and it is just as lovely as it sounds.

See, French toast used to be one of my favorite breakfasts when I went out. Give it to me plain, with cinnamon swirl bread, or stuffed. But now my body can no longer handle the yeast in the regular bread, so I have to enjoy alternatives when they pop up. This restaurant does a great job coming up with fun alternatives. I have had cinnamon bun French toast, frycake French toast, and a few times over the past year, pound cake French toast. Early in 2017, I treated myself with this luscious lemon pound cake French toast, served with blueberries.

I am guessing that they are using a prepackaged lemon pound cake, instead of making their own, just for the sake of ease. I do believe they have made some of their own loaves in the past, though, such as a lemon poppyseed one that I had last year. I remember double-checking ingredients on that one before trying it. I say if you’re good at making your own pound cake and want to control your ingredients, go homemade all the way. Otherwise, you can easily find some good, solid pound cake at your local bakery or grocery store. You don’t want a crumbly one, or it won’t work right.

To prepare the pound cake French toast, you do it in the usual way. Cut a nice, thick slab of pound cake, like you would want a nice, thick slice of bread for regular French toast. Dip it in some whisked raw egg to coat it. You won’t need to add anything like sugar or vanilla to the egg, because the pound cake is already lusciously sweet and flavorful.

Cook the egg-covered slice in a stovetop pan, browning it on both sides. Serve immediately. I like the garnish of fresh fruit on top of the pound cake, to give it even more flavor. Plus, fruit at breakfast is always a nice touch. They serve it with Country Crock, because this place never serves real butter. (I would prefer real butter, but you don’t need it.) You can also pour some syrup on it, but trust me, you won’t need that, either. A good pound cake is already moist. And as I said, it already is sweet and has good flavor.

The other part of this breakfast that I like at this diner is that the pound cake French toast comes with your choice of eggs, meat, and potatoes. I have been married to scrambled eggs since about birth. I like their bacon better than their sausage. And one of the servers there taught me a couple of years ago about the joy of home fries with onions, and theirs are always done to perfection that way. All of this food keeps you full for about the entire day. In fact, I almost had to take part of that pound cake French toast home!

And even with the cup of flavored coffee, the bill still comes to under $10. You just can’t beat that.

So which flavor would you like to try? I say the possibilities are endless. Another one I remember having sometimes over the past year or so was a raspberry pound cake, served with fresh berries on top. So many combinations are available. Let me know how yours turns out and what flavor combination you try to make!


30 Spaghetti Recipes for National Spaghetti Day

Did you know that January 4th is National Spaghetti Day? I personally don’t think that you need to have a special holiday dedicated to this food, as it is one of my favorite quick and easy meals to make. Okay, I guess I should confess that I often end up making thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta, instead, but that’s because I am impatient and want to eat dinner! Nevertheless, there are so many spaghetti recipes out there that go beyond your simple box of pasta and jar of sauce. Let me tempt you.

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Chicken Spaghetti Recipes

French SpaghettiWine and Glue shares this really easy to make dish, starting with a homemade sauce that takes no time, and that uses a thin spaghetti with one of those rotisserie chickens that you can pick up at the store. It’s done in about 20 minutes.

Creamy, Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti – This is an original from The Country Cook that uses angel hair pasta, cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, and Mexican cheese for its creaminess. Then, to add some flavor, she uses salsa instead of sauce and some taco seasoning. It starts on the stovetop and ends in the oven, but it will be worth it. The recipe is large enough for leftovers.

Tomato Spinach Chicken Spaghetti – This one from Julia’s Album has a light Mediterranean feel to it, with the fresh tomatoes and basil, plus olive oil finish.

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Spaghetti – I love mushrooms with chicken. This recipe from Chowhound features a homemade sauce that starts with onion, mushrooms, wine, and seasonings that you eventually thicken and add cheese to.

Bang Bang Chicken Pasta – I love Bang Bang shrimp from Bonefish Grill as an appetizer. Why not use the sauce over spaghetti and with a bit of chicken for some protein? Kirbie Cravings figured out how to make this happen.

California Pizza Kitchen Copycat Kung Pao Chicken Spaghetti – Dinner Then Dessert made a copycat version of this popular recipe and managed to shave off half the fat without losing any of the taste!

Tomato-Free Spaghetti Recipes

For some people, too much tomato sauce is too much for their stomachs. I know I have never been a fan of too much tomato sauce, even just for taste. Here are some tomato-free spaghetti recipes.

Parmesan Garlic Spaghetti – This one has my name all over it. The combination of Parmesan cheese and garlic makes for my favorite chicken wings and will also work on my pasta. Damn Delicious makes it nice and easy.

Four Cheese Spaghetti – Even better than one kind of cheese? How about four? This one from Yellow Bliss Road uses mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano, and whipped cream cheese in the sauce, which is easily made while the pasta is cooking.

Mac and Cheese Spaghetti with Bacon and Peas – Another one of my favorite dishes is mac and cheese. I always love adding different ingredients to it. So, using spaghetti instead of elbow noodles and then adding in bacon and peas? Sign me up, BH&G Delish Dish!

One Pot Spaghetti Carbonara – If you don’t like peas, make this super creamy and garlicky version that still uses bacon from A Spicy Perspective.

Garlic Lovers SpaghettiGimme Some Oven makes the ultimate comfort food with a ton of garlic as the base. I say it’s also great for warding off colds!

Buttery Lemon Spaghetti – I love lemon almost as much as I love garlic. I never thought of using that over spaghetti, but Cookies and Cups makes it perfectly easy!

Spaghetti with Zucchini Pasta Sauce– Zucchini and pine nuts make for a great topping in this recipe found right here on Candrel’s CCC.

Baked Spaghetti Recipes

You traditionally think of spaghetti being made on a stovetop, but it can also go into your oven.

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs – Now this is my kind of baked spaghetti dish. Joy in Every Season uses lots of meatballs and lots of cheese for this quick and easy family-favorite.

Baked Million Dollar SpaghettiDinner Then Dessert makes this dish super tempting because of its super cheesy center with a blend of cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti – In a version by Cutefetti, get all of your cheesy goodness from a four cheese tomato sauce, cheddar cheese soup to keep it moist during baking, and mozzarella cheese to top it off.

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti – Cream cheese is magical when it comes to making food. Damn Delicious uses layers of cream cheese, sour cream, and a meaty marinara sauce in this comfort food.

Pizza Spaghetti Bake – I miss pizza so much, I can’t even tell you. But this casserole from What Megan’s Making may just fit the bill!

Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti – You can cook up this casserole found on Key Ingredient and freeze it up to six months.

Mexican Spaghetti Recipes

These recipes blend two of my favorite genres of food together. You can never go wrong with a Mexican-inspired dish, in my opinion!

One-Pot Taco Spaghetti – Yes, Damn Delicious says you can put the uncooked spaghetti right into the pot as you cook taco-flavored meet with your choice of heat and tomatoes to keep it juicy. When it’s done, top it off with your favorite cheese. I may even add a dollop of sour cream.

Mexican Spaghetti Bake – I’m Bored Let’s Go raided her pantry and threw together this baked Mexican-inspired dish. You can make it with ground beef or ground turkey, and oh the cheesy options!

Espagueti Verde – The name literally means Green Spaghetti. The color actually comes from poblano peppers whose flavor is tempered by some sour cream. The version from Just a Pinch also uses avocados and cilantro for some green and adds to the flavor with chicken and shrimp.

Seafood Spaghetti Recipes

Frutti di Mare – The ultimate in Italian seafood spaghetti that you can make at home comes from Ciao Florentina. She uses baby clams, mussels, squid, and shrimp in her version, but gives you license to use whatever favorites you wish.

Garlic Shrimp Alfredo in a Creamy Four Cheese Pasta Sauce – My favorite kind of seafood, hands down, is shrimp. Therefore, adding in a bunch of garlic with four cheeses from Julia’s Album is a must-try.

Creamy Garlic Scallop Spaghetti with Bacon – Or how about some scallops and bacon in a creamy sauce with your spaghetti, from Rock Recipes?

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Recipes

Ah, the magic of the slow cooker. Start these spaghetti recipes early to be ready when you get home, or alter them to go in your new Instant Pot!

Slow Cooker Baked Spaghetti – If you love the taste of baked spaghetti, you can let this recipe from The Magical Slow Cooker simmer all day in your slow cooker and be tempted by the scent all day long. That way, you won’t feel like you’re slaving over the pot all day long.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese – According to Spend With Pennies, this is the best way to get that melt-in-your-mouth flavor without slaving over a hot stove all day long. You can make an extra-large batch and freeze the leftovers!

Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs – The Country Cook uses just four ingredients to flashback to her favorite childhood dinner. So fast and so easy! And you can doctor it up any way that you want.

Cold Spaghetti Recipes

Spaghetti doesn’t always have to be served hot. Here are a few cold ideas to try out.

Spaghetti Salad – Maybe you want something light and cool to take along to a party or a picnic? Or maybe just something completely different? Dinner at the Zoo has this light and colorful side dish that is a hit at the parties. I would just need to skip the olives.

Asian Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Snow Peas, Garlic – Adapted from Taste of Home, this recipe from The Garden Grazer can be tasty served hot but is also perfectly good when it is cold.

Simple Tomato PastaThat’s What Che Said makes a very simple bruschetta-inspired salad with angel hair (or spaghetti works) topped with tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese.

Which one are you going to try today?

Have another favorite spaghetti recipe? Share it with us in the comments!

Classic Instant Pot Soup Recipes

Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas? So many of my friends did and I have to admit that I am a little jealous of them. They seem absolutely amazing and make cooking a breeze. It’s hard to cook for just one person, but one of these would probably make it a lot easier on me, plus I would have fantastic meals that I wouldn’t otherwise make, such as some of these Instant Pot Soup recipes. (This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission should you make a purchase through them. This will not cost you anything extra.) Continue reading “Classic Instant Pot Soup Recipes”

#Review of Bacon Pringles

bacon pringles review

I was out doing a little bit of shopping and somehow ended up in front of the potato chips, specifically the Pringles display. Someone smart at Walmart had it set up right next to the beer section, which was honestly what I was perusing. And then my eye was drawn to the word “Bacon.” What’s this? Bacon Pringles? Curiosity outweighed my ability to usually resist this treat, and I had to give them a try.

bacon pringles can in the grass

I did wait a little while, though. I felt compelled to give myself some time to find a day when I would be able to truly enjoy and savor every bite. After all, this was going to be a treat of sorts. So, line up a Saturday afternoon, where the sun is brightly shining. The temperature is in the low-to-mid 70’s. The neighborhood is miraculously quiet. And I am sitting outside in my makeshift third outdoor office, which is nothing more than an old blanket I can move around the yard, as needed. It was like a mini picnic for me, as I was able to enjoy snacks and small meals throughout the day as I wrote and read and crafted.

I opened the can with that Pringles pop and then had to set up the obligatory picture. Then, I was free to taste.

bacon pringles with chips

Those first few bites reminded me a lot of the barbecue flavored Pringles, only with a subtler taste. I thought maybe my tongue was playing tricks on me, so I went ahead and drank some water to cleanse the palate a bit and tried again. Something still reminded me of the BBQ flavor, though it wasn’t quite the same. And it definitely wasn’t a bacon flavor.

I decided to read through the ingredients. I already knew that the flavoring was supposed to be artificial, per the front of the can. (It’s hard to see in the pictures, but “Artificially Flavored” is printed in dark red just under “Bacon.”) All I could find was “natural flavors (including natural smoke flavor).” Well, I don’t think that bacon is quite one of the natural flavors, and I am curious about what those natural flavors actually are. I am also curious about why this is considered an exclusive flavor, when I know I have seen others with bacon flavoring.

And can we PLEASE get rid of MSG in products?

But I digress.

Conclusion? Well, while the taste does not immediately triggers thoughts of a beloved breakfast, Bacon Pringles are still tasty and snack-worthy. I feel like they would go well with beer, which is probably part of the reason they were displayed next to the beer cooler. In fact, I am craving one right now. They do have an enticing smell and also seem perfect for parties, as well as munching at home. And they do still make for a fine duckface picture, as all good Pringles should.

bacon pringles duckface