The Perfect Hot Chocolate

This is the perfect hot chocolate.  It is rich, creamy, and delicious, and will put you in a cozy, wintry state of mind. The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

First day back at work after the holiday?  Yeah, I feel that pain.  May I suggest clinging to the holiday season with some decadent hot chocolate?The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

Even though a good portion of the country has been unseasonably warm lately, it’s finally in the 30s in Western Pennsylvania (where our families live).  In addition to avoiding the return to reality, this little bit of chilly weather is as good an excuse as any for enjoying this easy, perfect hot chocolate.The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 2 large mugs):

  • 3 cups milk of choice (I’ve used 2% and almond milk, both worked very well)
  • 2-3 oz. dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • whipped cream, more mini marshmallows, and a cinnamon stick (optional, but highly recommended)

In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk over medium heat until bubbles just begin to appear around the edges.

Add the dark chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.  Whisk occasionally until everything is melted and combined.

Add the cup of mini marshmallows and whisk until they melt into the hot cocoa.  You won’t believe how ridiculously thick and creamy this makes the hot chocolate.

Ladle it into mugs and top with whipped cream, more marshmallows, and a cinnamon stick, if desired.

Snuggle up under some blankets (preferably with a cuddly dog or two) and sip away on this hot chocolate!

The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

The Perfect Hot Cocoa | A Nerd Cooks

The Perfect Hot Chocolate | A Nerd Cooks
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Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats

We officially moved to Durham, NC last Saturday!

I’m beyond excited to finally be down here and to start work at Duke next week.  I’ll be sharing more about the transition to southern life as things develop.

I’ve spent the past week unpacking and trying to organize the house.  I am finally at a point where all of my blog props and whatnot are unpacked, and the bedroom that I’m using as a “studio” (and as a spare bedroom) is organized enough that I could take some photos.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

In an attempt to kick things off with a proper Southern treat, I decided to go with Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

Haven’t tried Cheerwine?  Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soda that was created right here in North Carolina.  It was introduced to me by my friend, Emily, who is a South Carolina native.  It’s bubbly and sweet, and perfect over vanilla ice cream.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1):

Drop the scoops of ice cream into a tall glass.  Top with Cheerwine.  Drink!

Be careful, because as soon as the soda hits the ice cream, things will get pretty foamy.  Pour slowly.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

Looking for more float goodness?

Dr. Pepper Bourbon Floats

Dirty Coke Floats

Cherry-Lime Fizzy Mocktails

Show me someone who isn’t down for a pretty, fizzy drink.

You can’t, right?Cherry-Lime Fizzy Mocktails | A Nerd Cooks

With how ridiculously hot it’s been of late, these drinks are a welcome treat.

They are bubbly, sweet, and tart.  Cherry-Lime Fizzy Mocktails | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

For the cherry simple syrup –

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 15 cherries, pits removed and roughly chopped

For the drink (makes 1)- 

  • 1 oz. cherry simple syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • lime flavored sparking water (I used La Croix, because it’s my jam)
  • lime slices, for garnish (optional)

To make the simple syrup, combine the water, sugar, and cherries in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Turn the heat off and allow the simple syrup to cool.

Pour the simple syrup into a glass with ice.  Add the lime juice and top with sparkling water.  Garnish with lime slices.

Cherry Simple Syrup | A Nerd Cooks

Cherry-Lime Fizzy Mocktails | A Nerd Cooks

Dirty Coke Floats

Dirty Coke Floats | A Nerd Cooks

When a picture of these drinks showed up in my Facebook feed, I knew that I had to make them.  They looked so fun and tasty.  The original recipe doesn’t include any alcohol, but I couldn’t help myself and added a little rum.

Dirty Coke Floats | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog Dessert Now, Dinner Later!

You’ll need (makes 1 drink):

  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) light rum (can be omitted if you’d prefer a mocktail)
  • 1 12 oz. can of cola (I used Coke Zero, because I’m a fiend for it)
  • 2-3 small scoops coconut ice cream (vanilla would be good, too)

Squeeze the 1/2 lime into the bottom of a glass.  Add the light rum and whatever pop/soda you’re using.  I used Dr. Pepper for my husband’s drink.

Add the scoops of ice cream and stir gently with a spoon or straw.  It should foam up a bit, like you see in the pictures.

Garnish with a lime, if you’re feeling fancy, and enjoy!

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Dirty Coke Floats | A Nerd Cooks

Perfect Iced Tea

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this before, but I am full on addicted to Coke Zero.  Now, I mean, I know that I am addicted to caffeine (as are many people in the world).  But there’s something about Coke Zero in particular.  I find myself actually craving it.

Yes, I know that diet pop/soda is just terrible for you.  I know this.  But I can’t help myself.  As a public health professional, this is a little embarrassing.

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to wean myself off of it for some time.  Caffeine is a necessity in my life, so that had to be taken into consideration.  I love black tea, so I decided to brew up a big batch of iced tea (sweetened with a bit of real sugar) and keep it on hand in the fridge.

It’s going to take a while, but I think that this could be a very acceptable, long-term substitute for diet pop.

Perfect Iced Tea | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog Hillbilly Housewife.

You’ll need:

  • 8 cups water, divided
  • 6-8 tea bags (whatever kind you like)
  • desired amount of sweetener, optional

In a 2-quart sized sauce pan, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil.  Pour the remaining 4 cups of (preferably cold) water in a large pitcher that can withstand heat.

Once the water in the pan boils, add all of the tea bags.  Remove from the heat, and steep for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes has passed, discard the tea bags.

Pour the hot tea over the cold water in the pitcher.  You can add some manner of sweetener at this stage if you want: honey, sugar, simple syrup, etc.

Put the pitcher in the fridge to finish chilling, or pour into an ice-filled glass immediately.

Tropical Fruit and Pomegranate Smoothie

Happy Thirsty Thursday, everyone!  I had a pomegranate hanging around my kitchen, and wanted to use it up somehow.  Initially I had intended to use it as garnish for last week’s pomegranate margarita, but of course forgot about it.  What better way to use it than in a smoothie?

Makes 1 large smoothie.

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils (or 1/4 cup pomegranate juice)
  • handful tropical fruit, frozen (I had a mixture of mango, pineapple, and strawberries)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup plain almond milk

Put everything in a blender and let it rip.  The blender will likely not be able to break down all of the little seeds that are inside of the arils, so you’ll end up with the seeds in the smoothie.  It’s kind of like the seeds from a raspberry.  If you want a completely smooth smoothie, consider substituting pomegranate juice for the arils.

{Homemade Christmas Gifts!} – Part 1 – Hot Chocolate Mix

Here’s the first installment of posts showcasing homemade gifts that are just perfect for giving away during the winter holiday season!


I know I’ve shown you homemade hot chocolate before, but this recipe makes much larger quantities.  And really, I think that this one is actually better!  After much searching, I found this recipe from The Brown Eyed Baker.

You’ll need:

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (or white chocolate, chopped)
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Working in 2 batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the white chocolate is ground up pretty finely.  

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make the hot chocolate: Add your desired amount of mix to a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk (almond milk works well here, too!).  Enjoy! 

Since I’m giving these as gifts, I also plan to add a little fabric and ribbon to dress them up a bit.