One of my favorite ways to spend a snowy day is with a good book and an equally good cup of hot chocolate!

Making hot chocolate the old-fashioned or even instant packet-style way works, but sometimes it's fun to step it up a notch by making it spicier, richer, or grown-up friendly. Here are some delicious ways to mix up the best mug you've ever tasted ...

  1. Mint  - Adding a dash of peppermint extract is a super simple way to make an extra yummy cup.
  2.  Mexican - Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and chili powder  to your favorite generic hot chocolate recipe.
  3. Russian-style - Give your cup of cocoa an adult kick by mixing together 2 ounces of Kahlua, 1 ounce of vodka, and 1 cup hot chocolate.
  4. Frozen -  Try turning down the temp on your hot chocolate for a special "frozen hot chocolate" treat. Mix 3 ounces of your favorite high-quality chocolate (melted) with two teaspoons of cocoa mix, and 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until well blended. Remove and slowly add 1/2 cup of milk, stir until smooth, and then cool to room temperature. Then blend mix, 1 cup of milk, and 3 cups of ice in blender until smooth. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
  5. White Cocoa- If you're a white chocolate fan, you'll love Paula Deen's simple but rich recipe: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup white chocolate chips and 1 cup heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in 4 cups half-and-half, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped topping and garnish with mint leaf. Serves 2-4.
  6. Go gourmet - Try an added dash of lavender extract. Sounds strange, I know, but be adventurous!
  7. Add a twist -  Add a couple slices of orange (or just orange peel) to give your hot chocolate a sunny edge.
  8. Berries - Heat 3 cups of milk over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pain (do not boil). Place 1 cup frozen raspberries, 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chopped), and 2 teaspoons sugar in a blender. While blending, then gradually add in milk. Strain to discard raspberry seeds. Serves 4.
  9. Spike it! - Bourbon or brandy plus maple syrup make a perfect pair for taking your hot chocolate to an entirely amazing new level.