Cupid’s Bark

It’s like the best chocolate-covered crunchy goodness there ever was! What’s more, it looks cute in jars, tins, or clear baggies for Valentine’s Day! Oh, and it’s easy to make too!

Ingredients: This is an estimate of quantities. The toppings of this bark are applied like ice cream toppings, so it’s really to your preference.

  • 1 bag of milk chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 box of Nilla Wafers


  • 1 bag of Valentine’s colored m&m’s, sprinkles, or other decorations.
  • 3/4 cup of dried fruit (ex. cherries, strawberries, cranberries, or a mix)
  • 3/4 cup fresh fruit (ex. raspberries, blueberries; fruits that have little-to-no juices that will spill out and soggy your bark)
  • 1 cup of mini pretzel, pretzel squares, or broken pretzel pieces


  1. Start by arranging Nilla Wafers (round side up) on a large, wax paper-lined cookie sheet.
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave. You can use all one type of chocolate, or create a half and half pan, or use one type of chocolate for the base and another for a decorative drizzle; there are no rules!
  3. In a microwaveable bowl, combine 1 bag of chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
  4. Microwave on high for about 3 to 5 minutes; stirring the mixture every 20 seconds until fully melted. A heat-safe silicone spatula works best, in our opinion. Melt times will vary, do not over cook.
  5. Using a heat safe spatula, spread the melted chocolate over the Nilla Wafers. (Then the hard part is over!)
  6. Spread your toppings over the chocolate quickly while it is warm so that they will stick to it. Be sure to gently press larger pieces down into the chocolate.
  7. I like to cool the creation (pan and all) in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Break apart the bark with clean hands, or by using a kitchen mallet.
  9. Place in parchment bags, bakers boxes, or air-tight containers.

Store this bark in the fridge to keep the chocolate firm and to preserve the fruit toppings.


Hoppin’ John

“Hoppin’ John” is a popular New Year’s Day tradition. Some say this savory black-eyed peas dish brings you good luck and fortune if you eat it on January 1st. Because this version has sausage, it’s great on its own; kind of like a jambalaya. We’ve seen it served with smoked meats, rotisserie chicken, and recently had it with blackened catfish – which was a very tasty combo.

This is how DeAnna makes it!



1 cup – Long Grain Rice

2 tablespoons – Olive Oil

1 large – Clove of Garlic

1 medium – Onion, chopped

1 medium – Green Pepper, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 – Jalapeño, sliced thin

2 – 15oz. cans of Black Eyed Peas

6 oz. – Andouille Sausage, sliced into half moons

3 cups – Baby Spinach


  1. Cook the rice according to package.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and cook sausage over medium-high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer sausage to a bowl.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the same pan you cooked the sausage in. Add onions. Cover and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Add green pepper and stir occasionally until the vegetables are softened. About 5 minutes.
  5. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add black eyed peas and 1/2 cup of water. Cook until heated through.
  7. Add sausage back to the pan.
  8. Add spinach to the pan and cook until the spinach is wilted. About 2 minutes.
  9. Serve over rice.

Holiday Ambrosia

This easy tropical fruit salad is a slight twist on the 50’s classic. It makes a festive holiday side, that is quick and simple enough that children can help make it.

Click the links below if you’re looking for our other holiday recipes:


  • 1 – 14oz. can of Pineapple Tidbits in JUICE (we use Dole)
  • 1 – 14oz. can of Mandarin Oranges in JUICE
  • 1 – 16oz. jar of Maraschino Cherries (no stems)
  • 5 oz. of Sweetened Shredded Coconut (about 3/4 of a small bag)
  • 1 tub of Cool Whip, thawed (can add more if extra whip is your thing!)
  • 1 5 oz. container of Black Cherry (Fruit on the Bottom) Greek Yogurt (we use Choibani Black Cherry greek yogurt with fruit on the bottom, Mixed Berry could also work.)
  • 1 cup of Green Grapes (we leave them whole, but you can half them if desired.)
  • 1 tablespoon of Strawberry flavored instant Jello
  • 5 oz. (1/2 bag) of mini Marshmallows


  1. Drain both the mandarin oranges and pineapple well and place in large bowl.
  2. Add in shredded coconut, grapes, and yogurt. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.
  3. Add Cool Whip to the bowl, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the instant Jello. Mix well.
  4. Reserving the juices, (we’ll use some of it in a moment) add the cherries to the salad.
  5. Use the remaining cherry juice to sparingly tint and flavor the fruit mixture to your tasting. Only add a tablespoon or two of cherry juice at a time and stir until it is light pink in color.
  6. Add marshmallows and stir.
  7. Cover and return Ambrosia to fridge for at least an hour before serving.

NOTE: Too much liquid makes this salad runny. It should be fluffy. If you find you’ve added too much juice, add some more Cool Whip to help counter.


Caramel Butter Bar Cookies

These rich Caramel Butter Bar Cookies are our fall favorite! Because these cookies are dense and flavorful, they make decadent single serving gifts that friends and family will LOVE. Just slip a square into a decorative wax or cellophane bag with a little ribbon or sticker to close.


  • Flour – 2 cups
  • Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Soft Caramel Squares – 25 pieces
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk – 1 can
  • Butter – 2 sticks, at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
  • Salt – 1/8 teaspoon
  • OPTIONAL – Chocolate for melting

Note: this is a small batch cookie. If you like thicker bars, or want to make a larger order, double the dough/crust part but use the same amount of caramel from the original recipe.


Preheat oven to 350.

  1. Beat butter with hand mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add sugar and salt, beat again.
  3. Scrape down bowl with spatula, mix in flour on low speed.
  4. Press 3/4 of the crust into a small ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Place caramels in microwaveable bowl with the sweetened condensed milk. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every minute until it is all melted and combined.
  6. Add vanilla to caramel mixture.
  7. Pour caramel over the crust.
  8. Drop remaining crust in small amounts onto top of caramel.
  9. Bake about 20 minutes or until edges are semi golden.
  10. Allow to cool on countertop and then move to fridge to set.
  11. Cut into 4″ squares to package or serve.


Add a layer of chocolate to make these bars even fancier. Drizzle melted chocolate on top, or after the bars have chilled in the fridge, smooth a layer of chocolate over the top of the bars and return to the fridge to chill. After they have completely hardened, cut into squares.



The Easiest Queso on Earth!

This queso is a fall must have in our house!


  • 16 oz. Box of Velveeta Cheese, cut into cubes.
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies, at your desired spiciness.

Optional – MAKE IT HEARTY:

  • 1 can of Cannellini Beans
  • 1 package of Jimmy Dean (or similar) sausage, at your desired spiciness. (The raw stuff in the plastic tube bag.) BROWNED BEFORE ADDING TO CROCK POT.


  1. Place slow cooker liner in pot if desired.
  2. Cube Velveeta into approx. 1″ cubes and add to slow cooker with 1 can of Rotel.
  3. If making the Hearty Version: Lightly brown sausage in a pan on the stove until it is no longer pink, drain and add to slow cooker. Drain and lightly rinse cannellini beans and add to slow cooker too.
  4. Slow cook on high for about an hour or two, stirring every 30 minutes or so to incorporate the ingredients. Once it reaches desired consistency, reduce to the “low” or “warm” setting.
  5. After a taste test, if desired, use small amounts of Salt, Pepper, and/or Garlic Powder (powder not salt) and spice to taste.
  6. Serve with Corn Chips, Tortilla Chips, Vegetable Sticks, Pretzels, Tater Tots, Pigs in a Blanket, as a topping for Chili… this queso is a versatile crowd pleaser!

Bailey’s Colada

On a recent trip to Panama City Beach, we discovered “Banana Bailey’s Coladas.” All of our colada days will never be the same! Here’s how to make it:


  • 1 fresh Banana or Banana liquor (optional)
  • 1 can of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut*
  • Irish Cream liquor, we prefer Bailey’s
  • Pineapple Juice*
  • Milk
  • Ice

*In place of the Coco Lopez and Pineapple Juice, you can use a ready-made Pina Colada mix, we suggest Daily’s.


  1. We make this drink in “parts” using the cap from the top of the blender, or other measuring cup.
    • 4 parts Coco Lopez
    • 3 parts Pineapple Juice
    • 2 parts Bailey’s
    • (optional) 1 part Banana Liquor and/or 1 fresh Banana
  2. Place “parts” in blender, fill blender with ice and blend until smooth. Use a small amount of Milk, Pina Colada mix, or Pineapple Juice to loosen the mixture if necessary.
  3. Garnish cups with a sugar rim, or pineapple slice.

We have made this with and without the banana. Both ways are delicious!



Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Nothing says July like homemade ice cream. We use this method in our FAVORITE ice cream maker, the Cuisinart from our post: Kitchen Gadgets Worth Owning!

Make the base a day before so it can chill for a good length of time. Using a cold ice cream base will form your ice cream quicker and with a nicer texture too.


  • Small CLEAN Dish Towel
  • Ice Cream Maker
  • Mixing Bowls, Wooden Spoon, Wire Whisk, Silicone spatula…
  • Freezer-Proof Storage Container with Lid.


  • 1 cup 2% Milk
  • 2 cups Half and Half
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 large Hershey bar, snapped into pieces.



8 to 24 hours before using the ice cream machine:

Get stuff cold. Place ice cream maker reservoir in freezer overnight or for a few days.

Prepare the base 8 to 24 hours before you intend to turn it into ice cream in the machine. This will give it enough time to get thoroughly cold, which will create better ice cream.

Our “base” is basically like a concentrated hot cocoa from scratch:

    1. In a cold medium sized sauce pan; add half-and-half, sugar, and pieces of chocolate. Place pan over medium-low heat, slowly heating and stirring the mixture with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you can no longer feel any sugar grain textures as you stir the bottom of the pan. (Use a silicone spatula to make sure you get any hidden lumps along the walls and corners of the pan.) Turn off stove and remove from heat.
    2. Place the cold milk in a large mixing bowl, and set it aside to adjust to the room temperature while you finish the base.
    3. Use a silicone spatula to stir vanilla and cocoa powder into the warm base. Allow mixture to cool for two minutes.
    4. By a large spoonful at a time, slowly incorporate the chocolate base into the bowl of the cold milk until it is all combined.
    5. Place base mixture back in refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours to chill.

Pro Tip: Experiment swapping out the chocolate for other flavors. We’ve used this cooked base method to make fruit flavored ice cream too.

  • Strawberry Ice Cream: Slice strawberries (or other fruit) and place in a bowl with a bit of sugar sprinkled over them and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and cook strawberries (reserving juices) over medium-low heat until softened. (Don’t burn them, they just need to be softened.)
  • Use a silicone spatula to add the contents of the frying pan, and the reserved juices, to Step 1, where you would normally add pieces of chocolate.

Now freeze the chocolate mixture in the machine. Follow your machine’s instructions. Our method is:

  1. Put the ice cream tools like the mixers, containers, bowls, and spatulas in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) about an hour before you start making ice cream to get them nice and cold.
  2. Set up your work space. Plug in your machine and gather your tools. You will want to move fast so have everything you will need at the ready. Retrieve the frozen reservoir and mixing paddles last to ensure they are as cold as possible when you start churning. Assemble the machine, and move very quickly to start making.
  3. Turn on your machine. Slowly pour the chocolate base mixture into the churning reservoir. Watch the liquid levels, as the mixture expands as it freezes and could overflow if too full.
  4. Place the clean folded dish towel over the hole to keep the cold air in. Return any unused portion of the base mixture to fridge. You can make more later!
  5. Set timer for 20 minutes before peeking at the progress under the dish towel. Inspect quickly to keep as much cold air in as possible. Check again in 10 minutes. Note: the machine noises start to change slightly as the mixture freezes and gets harder to turn.
  6. When your ice cream is set, turn off the machine. Remove the paddle. Quickly stir in any mix-ins with a silicone spatula, and transfer mixture to a freezer safe storage container.

Ice Cream can get a little melty in the process of mix-ins and transferring. Freeze for 10 minutes before dishing it out.

Pro Tip: When it comes to mix-ins, we found most chocolate chips and various candies got way too hard when they froze in the ice cream. Magic Shell type chocolate worked great for making our own chocolate bits or using as a topping. Snacks we could turn into crumbs, like Butterfingers and Oreos worked well too.

Cooked fruit that is then chilled (strawberries, bananas, peaches, cherries, etc.) makes better taste and texture than just mixing in fresh slices at the end.

Let us know what homemade ice cream flavor combinations you come up with in the comments of our social media; @DeAnnaAndCompany. Enjoy!