Baby, it’s Cold Outside

Old Man Winter is upon us, wreaking havoc on our Northern and Midwestern friends. Even down here in the South, the temperatures have been way chillier than they should be, thanks to the Polar Vortex (sounds like the name of a bad SyFy movie of the week) that’s been sweeping the nation. And the cold isn’t just invading the outside.

Seems like everyone in my family has been struck with this cold/flu bug that’s been going around. Last week, it started with my Dad, moved on to my sister, Jenn, then paid a visit to my Mom.

This week it hit our house.

It started out on Friday. Since it’s way too cold to bathe the greyhounds  outdoors, and since hell will freeze over before I attempt to bathe them in the shower stall in our bathroom, I made an appointment for them at the “salon”.  Of course, the mere thought of a car ride was enough to get my lazy-ass dogs up and at attention.  We loaded them into the car, and away we went. After a fairly uneventful 15 minute drive, we arrived and opened the back door of the Jeep to let the dogs out. Dodge jumped right out, ready to meet her adoring fans. Ace stood there and let loose a flood of urine that would have made Noah run for cover.

Seriously?? In my freakin’ car??? After a few choice words, and two more, ahem,  floods from the boy, we decided to see if the vet could  take a quick peek and maybe give us a clue as to why this was happening. While we were waiting for the receptionist, Ace, the Canine Wonder, very nonchalantly let another river flow. At this point I’m wondering how the hell the dog could have this much urine in his bladder.  I mean, how big can a bladder be on a dog that skinny?  Anyway, after three more trips outside, and several tests, the vet concluded that he seemed fine but that she was going to give him some antibiotics just in case there was any infection that did not show up on the tests. Then she told me how much those antibiotics would cost and I almost peed on the floor, too. “Uh, would you mind if I called Sam’s Club? They carry pet meds now and I may get a better price.” The vet, who is a sweetheart, totally understood and after a quick call, I found out that I’d be saving over $60 so I got a prescription, dropped Ace next door at the groomer to join Dodge and left to pick up the medicine. It’s a very interesting thing, getting pet meds at a pharmacy that usually handles humans. The pharmacist, after looking at the prescription, said, “Smoky Ace. Hmm. Is that a canine?”  I fought back the urge to say (with great indignation), “No, he’s my SON!!!” and instead said, “Yes, he’s a dog. And his name is ‘Smokin‘ Ace, not ‘Smokey’ Ace.”

I was answered with a blank stare. “Ok, what is Smokey’s birthdate?”

Sigh. At that point, I just gave up and gave the tech the date.

“Ok, it’ll be ready in about 15 minutes. We’ll text you. Hope Smokey feels better!”

And just like that, my dog with the cool, badass name got relinquished to sounding like a down-on-his-luck poker player with a nicotine habit. Sad.

I’m happy to report that Ace is feeling much better, his bladder is back to normal and both greyhounds are smelling sweet and enjoying their new cushy beds. Yeah, much like you folks with human kids, when there is a sick dog in the house, they get presents to make them feel better. This time it was new beds and coats. I’m such a sucker.

They can be so damn cute when they want to.
They can be so damn cute when they want to.
Coco is especially enjoying her new coat. And I am especially enjoying my new hat.

After all the hubbub settled down, I decided to run some errands and pick up ingredients for dinner. I decided on Mexican inspired steak sandwiches and chicken tortilla soup since it was so cold outside.

Cold… A subjective word, cold.

Right now my Northern and Midwestern brethren are reading this and cursing me and the teens to mid 30s temperatures that we consider “cold” in the Charlotte, NC area. Trust me, folks, I have felt your pain. I’m a New Yorker. I remember real cold and lots of snow. And recently I managed two outdoor event gigs in Chicago and Indianapolis. I give you guys props. I don’t know how you do it. And when I was there, it was a balmy 4 degrees, compared to the negative temperatures you’re currently dealing with.

The smiles were permanently frozen on our faces in Indianapolis. And people were running in this weather….yikes…

I have nothing but love and respect for you. And hot chocolate! I’ve been promising to post my new hot cocoa recipe since right before Christmas, but haven’t had a chance. So Friday night, while making soup and sandwiches, I said to Gary, “I feel bad for everyone getting hit with all this snow. I wish they could send a little our way. Well, since I’m making soup and sandwiches, we can pretend that we’re snowed in.”

And then an idea hit.

“You know what I’m gonna do?” I asked as Gary eyed the soup pot. “I owe everyone the hot cocoa recipe so I’m gonna hold a contest so I have some pictures of snow and “real” cold weather!”  Gary, still eyeing the soup pot answered, “Hmm. Sounds like a good idea. When’s dinner?”

I put a call out on the social networks with the intent of publishing the post and recipe on Saturday. But when does one of my plans ever go according to schedule?…On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling all cuddly and sweet and was greeted by the Hubs hacking up half a lung at me. How romantic. So I’ve been playing Flo Nightingale since then. Poor kid. You know Gary is really not feeling well when I don’t get an argument when trying to get him to stay in bed and rest. Fortunately, I’m still going strong! I’ve been mainlining vitamin C, Echinacea and Grape Seed Extract like a damn addict but so far, I’m not showing any signs of illness. Yay! Good thing too, because when I get sick, the whole damn house just kinda stops. So I continue to pop herbs and vitamins and pray  for the best. I have to say, now that he’s resting I’ve had a very productive day. There’s a whole chicken poaching in a 21 quart pot with all the veggies and herbs to make an enormous vat of chicken soup, the house is relatively clean (although the Christmas decorations are still up) and I’m finally getting around to finishing this damn post! Hmm. Maybe the Hubs should get sick more often….(joking!)

Anyway, for all of you wishing for a little snow, here are some amazing photos from folks in the thick of it. All of the photographers will receive a “DBA Warm Up Prize Pack” in the mail in the next week. Thanks for braving the cold and sharing these beautiful shots!

From my dear friend and fellow Chef, Raffaelle Marzullo, some New Jersey snow 🙂
Comin’ atcha from my home of Long Island, NY, here’s an adorable shot from my cousin, Shannon Conti-Lorefice 🙂
This breathtaking shot comes from Darlene Mozeko in Pennsylvania. Wow!
Kimm Santa sent this one of her sister’s yard in Indiana. 🙂
Look at these cuties, helping to shovel the snow! Thanks, Christine Naccarato!
“Watch out for those icicles! They’ve been known to kill people!” Thanks, Megan Kelley Peveich 🙂

You guys rock! You’re prize packs will be on their way in a day or two 🙂

And yes, as promised, here is the recipe for my hot cocoa. It’s inspired by the Mexican hot chocolate that I love so much and for the adults, I put a little Badass in it by way of some Amaretto. Yum! The cinnamon and cayenne add a subtle flavor and warmth to the drink and the optional shot of Amaretto just makes you feel good. Hey, it’s cold out there. Do whatever you need to stay warm!

Be Bold! Be Badass! Be Warm!


The Badass says: “Try my grown up spin on a childhood favorite! My Hot Cocoa gets a little kick from a bit of cinnamon and cayenne and a bit of amaretto adds a tasty adult touch to warm you up on the chilliest winter day!”

Here’s what you need:

4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 oz. chili infused dark chocolate

1.5 cups hot water

½ cup plus 2 TBS sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder

3 cups half and half (you can substitute whole milk if you prefer)

1 TBS vanilla extract

Amaretto (optional)


And here’s what you do:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the hot water and all the chocolate and cook on medium heat, whisking regularly until the chocolate completely melts, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, cinnamon and cayenne and cook, whisking constantly, for 4 minutes on medium heat. Whisk in the milk and vanilla and continue cooking for about 2-3 minutes, whisking until frothy. If you have an immersion blender, you can use it to make the cocoa extra frothy. To serve, add 1 TBS of amaretto (optional) to a mug and then add about 8-10 oz of cocoa, stir and enjoy!

Note: The cayenne adds a bit of spice, but does not make the drink blazing hot, it just gives it a nice warmth. If you prefer a milder version, add just a dash of cayenne or leave it out altogether.

Well, I hear coughing from the bedroom, so I better go. Take care out there and stay warm (and healthy!)
Till next time…

Have Fun… and Be Fearless!


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