Hot Chocolate Mix

hot cocoa mix

Happy New Year! 2015! Gosh, it sounds like something of the future. Did everyone have a good new year’s eve? I sure hope so.

Now that Mother Nature has decided that it’s going to be more like winter, I wanted to share with you this fabulous diy hot cocoa mix. Lately, it has been my best friend. Yesterday’s temp was -8 when I got up. The coldest it has been yet! With howling winds and blowing snow, all I want to do is curl up inside next to the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. And of course snuggle with the baby. Speaking of said baby, she has her first tooth working through! Also, she is basically sitting up on her own, AND she is trying oh so hard to crawl. To the point that she is getting so frustrated that she can’t get her legs moving. She rocks back and forth thinking about it, but the brain connection isn’t there yet. She is already 6 months old! My baby is growing up way too quickly.

hot cocoa mix 2

On to this hot cocoa mix.

It blows the pants off store bought mixes. I honestly don’t think I could go back to Swiss Miss anymore. This stuff is the real deal. It’s rich, velvety and all around delicious. In the past, I have decorated little jars and gifted it to friends and family. It makes a great hostess gift for the cold months! I mean really, who doesn’t love hot chocolate? This is well worth the effort and ingredient list to make this yourself. It keeps for months. So it will last you the winter without going bad. Well, that is if you can resist drinking every day.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Yield: about 76 2-tablespoon servings*

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 lbs. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 9 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder

Directions

Split and scrape the vanilla beans into a large bowl or jar with the sugar.  Work the vanilla seeds into the sugar with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bury the pods under the sugar, cover tightly and let stand overnight (or up to months) at room temperature. (You can do a large batch of this vanilla sugar and keep the pods in the sugar to add extra flavor. It’s fantastic to use in homemade ice cream or any vanilla flavored desserts.) Remove the pods when ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the sugar, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate, and Dutch process cocoa powder.  Process in 4-second pulses until the chocolate is very finely ground and the mixture is well combined.  Store the mix in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

To serve: combine 2 tablespoons cocoa mix with 8 oz. of hot milk and stir to combine until well blended.

*You can easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t have a large food processor. This is what I do and works just fine!

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Gourmet, 2005

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Thin Mint Milkshake

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Hands up if you are a girl scout cookie lover.

Both of my hands are raised. We always have a large order of girl scout cookies. My husband literally orders an entire case of thin mints. We keep them in the freezer, where they will last forever! Well, technically they should last forever, but in reality, they only last like a month. Two at the most. Sad huh? Considering we have thin mint cookies coming out of our ears, I thought I might as well make something with them. My husband reluctantly sacrificed half a box to me.

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This milkshake was definitely on a whim and just a random craving. But totally worth indulging in. I mean really, how can you go wrong with thin mints and vanilla ice cream? This milkshake was the perfect way to end a warm Spring day, where I actually ended up sunburnt! I promise you, you won’t be sorry if you go and make this. Now.

Thin Mint Milkshake

Yield: 2-3 servings

  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream (or if you’re freaky like that, use chocolate ice cream!)
  • 1 sleeve of thin mint cookies, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Optional- if you really like mint, add a dash of peppermint extract

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve with additional crushed thin mint cookies on the top. Enjoy!

Island Bakes Original

Non-Alcoholic Strawberry Bellini

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone is having a romantic, happy day! Our weather isn’t very celebratory. We got a couple inches of snow last night, which then turned to rain, and is still pouring this morning. But, at least it’s above freezing for the first time in a few weeks!

I wanted to share this new favorite recipe of mine. My brother gave me the brilliant idea one family brunch of mixing orange juice and sparkling cider together instead of champagne. So, I thought, why not amp it up a bit and add strawberries!? Oh my, even my husband was asking for seconds. I could probably finish a whole bottle of sparkling cider myself if it wouldn’t give me a belly ache. This would be a perfect addition for breakfast in bed for a loved one, or to any brunch, breakfast, after dinner treat. Heck, I would drink this any time of day, any time of year! I can just envision sitting outside in the summer sun with a glass of this….

Non-Alcoholic Strawberry Bellini

servings: about 2

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup sparkling cider
  • fresh strawberries for garnish (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into glasses, garnish with fresh strawberries if desired, and serve.

Island Bakes Original

DIY Vanilla Syrup

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I don’t know about you, but I have been rushing to enjoy all the iced coffee that I can before fall sets in. Although, the mornings have been feeling very fall-ish already. I am starting to pack in going out for ice cream, drive-in’s, grilling and beach days before long sleeve weather sets in. If August feels like September, what does that mean when it is December? I don’t even want to think about it!

When I drink my coffee, I usually like it with just milk or half and half. The rare times when I go Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, I will order a caramel or vanilla flavored coffee for a little guilty pleasure. Iced with whip cream on top? Yes please! Knowing that those flavors are just terrible for me, I thought I would try to make my own for a little change once in a while. Luckily, one of my favorite blogs I follow saved me the time of researching how to make flavor syrups. I went with vanilla first to see if I would like it, or even remember to use it! My favorite way is to add it to iced coffee instead of hot. But, you can do whatever you please.

DIY Vanilla Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add in the pod.  Heat the mixture over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.  Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat, discard the vanilla bean pod and stir in the vanilla extract.  Let cool.  Store in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Iced Coffee

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup brewed coffee at room temperature or cold
  • 1/4 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla syrup

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and well combined. Serve.

Source: Syrup from Annie’s Eats

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

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Here’s a smoothie for those hot summer days. It’s refreshing, light and almost like a virgin piña colada! Since we have smoothies almost daily during the warm months, I have lots of time to invent many new flavors! You’ll love a few that will be posted at a later date (pear raspberry, peanut butter, to name a few). This is one I could totally drink daily, or even multiple times a day. It shouts summer! You could definitely blend up a huge batch of this for a cookout for all the kiddos (and adults!). And if you have left over coconut milk, you can make my muffins (to come)!

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

  • 1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup lite coconut milk (not the stuff that’s usually by the liquor, that’s super sweet)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup ice cubes

Directions

Place all the ingredients in the blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

*The wonderful top is made by a friend of mine*

DIY Chocolate Syrup

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My husband and daughter both have a serious sweet tooth. Who am I kidding, so do I! I try to limit my daughter’s intake of goodies, as well as myself. I figure, she can mess up her diet later in life, but I’d like to have her start out on the right foot of being healthy.

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After saying that, I always look forward to making this chocolate syrup so the kids can have chocolate milk as a treat. Prepare to be 5 years old again. This chocolate milk is awesome! It is sooo much better than the store bought. And it will last quite a while in the fridge. I even get a little giddy when I think about having some after lunch.

DIY Chocolate Syrup

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa powder and whisk to break up any clumps. Stir in the water and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Store in the refrigerator.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Apple Pie Smoothie

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Starting this blog has made me branch out with recipes more than I ever thought I would. It has been very exciting to create my own recipes, and have them be edible! Ha! I even created a muffin recipe that was de-lish (recipe to come)!

Smoothies are a regular snack in my house. It’s a great pick-me-up in the afternoon, especially on a hot day. A fantastic way to get all your fruit servings at once! And you can even sneak other ingredients in that your child might not like. This smoothie made me want to drink the whole pitcher by myself. But, reluctantly, I shared it with the kids. They drank their smoothies so fast, I don’t think they even came up for air!

This also is a great, healthy alternative to something sweet you might be craving. If you don’t have a lot of time for breakfast, this is something you can throw together in just a few minutes and be heading out the door!

Apple Pie Smoothie

  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 4 ice cubes

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Add more ice cubes if desired. Serve immediately.

*Note: Plain or vanilla yogurt can be substituted for the almond milk, just add more applesauce so the smoothie isn’t too thick.