We’re feelin’ hot! hot! hot!

The winter starts to feel a little long at this point. I know we’re not in Ottowa, but 30 degrees is 30 degrees, people. Looking for a way to warm up? Head to the kitchen.

The winter starts to feel a little long at this point. I can’t help it, my roots are in Florida — I prefer sun to snow. I know we’re not in Ottowa, but 30 degrees is 30 degrees, people. It took me a few years to figure out how to dress in layers so that I wouldn’t be too cold or too hot. But, there’s another way to fight the bone-chilling cold this time of year, and that’s with food.

I don’t think I’m alone here… I find that I crave warm drink and food during the winter. Spicy food warms me to the bones (and, does a nice job of clearing out those sinuses, thank you very much). So go on and layer your clothes, because that helps. But if you want to warm up from the inside out, try your hand at some red-hot spicy food.

Warning: This is not a meal plan. A spread of all of these together would just about kill someone. Pick and choose where you want the heat, I’m throwing out recipes from a wide variety of origins and flavors.

A drink is a quick way to heat things up

Start off your day with this Spicy Mocha (recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis). With chocolate, espresso, chilies, and cinnamon, you’re sure to warm up quickly.

  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 small dried red chilies (such as chilies de arbol)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 3 cups espresso
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Combine the milk, chilies, and cinnamon sticks in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Remove from the heat. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Whisk in the espresso, sugar, and 1 cup of cocoa powder. Bring the hot chocolate to a simmer, whisking often. Discard the chilies and cinnamon sticks. Meanwhile, whisk the powdered sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a large bowl to blend. Add the cream and whisk until the mixture is thick. Ladle the hot chocolate into 8 mugs. Spoon the chocolate whipped cream atop and serve immediately.

Or, if a cocktail is more your speed, you should check out Guy Fieri’s Spicy Agave Wave. Order some Mexican and bottoms up!

  • Ice
  • 1 slice jalapeno, seeded 1 by 1/4-inch piece
  • 1-ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2-ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila blanco (100 percent blue agave)
  • 3/4-ounce agave nectar
  • 1/2 celery stick, for garnish

Fill a glass or cocktail shaker with some ice. Add jalapeno, lime and lemon juices and muddle. Add more ice and the tequila and agave nectar. Shake and pour into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with celery stick.

With the right appetizer, you can start a meal off with fire.

Check out Rachel Ray’s Spicy Fennel Shrimp if seafood will do ya. This recipe will serve twelve, so take these jumbo shrimp to your next party.

  • 24 colossal size shrimp, tails on, deveined
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place shrimp in a bowl and season with fennel, red pepper flakes, lots of salt and pepper, and the zest of 2 lemons. Add garlic and oil and use your hands to coat shrimp evenly. Heat a skillet to medium-high and cook shrimp until pink and firm, douse pan with the juice of 2 lemons and serve immediately.

I love a great chicken satay appetizer. Ellie Kreiger’s Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce will certainly turn up the heat but in a familiar way.

  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Sauce can be made 1 day ahead of time, and will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Want just a side of spicy?

Giada De Laurentiis’sFusilli with Spicy Pesto sounds just about right on the side of grilled chicken. Not just your everyday pasta, people.

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2-inch long) red or green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups grated (4 ounces) Asiago cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 ounces arugula
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fusilli pasta
  • 4 ounces Asiago cheese, shaved
  • 1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, cheese, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and arugula and process until blended. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the cooked pasta and pesto in a large serving bowl. Toss well and thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed.

Let the main event of the night carry the spice

The words “comfort food” and “spicy” don’t typically go together, but I think this recipe for Spicy Turkey Tenders with Blue Cheese Penne Pasta (also from Guy Fieri) combines the two nicely. It’s kind of like mac and cheese with chicken fingers on crack.

For the dry rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 pounds turkey tenders, cut into 2-inch pieces

In a small bowl, mix together the dry spices and season turkey tenders. Cover with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator for 1 hour.

For the bechamel:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 3/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons blue cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup hot sauce, warmed (recommended: Franks)
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 pounds penne rigate pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped Roma tomatoes

In a large saute pot over medium heat, add butter and oil. Warm until the butter melts then whisk in flour, until mixture is smooth. Slowly add skim milk with whisk, breaking down solids. When all the milk is added, slightly simmer for 10 minutes and then whisk in 3/4 cup blue cheese and nutmeg. Hold warm. Preheat grill or cast iron skillet to high. Add turkey tender pieces and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, or juice runs clear. Remove from grill, toss in warmed hot sauce, and hold warm. In a large pot heat 2 gallons of water to boil, and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add pasta, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Toss drained pasta with blue cheese bechamel sauce, next remove turkey tenders from hot sauce, and toss in pasta and bechamel. Garnish with Roma tomatoes and remaining blue cheese.

And, yes, dessert can even carry some dangerous levels of heat!

I’m not sure how warm your insides will get with these Spicy Sundaes from Rachel Ray, but your taste buds will sizzle for sure.

  • 1 cup caramel or fudge sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pints ice cream, such as vanilla or walnut
  • Whipped cream
  • Dark bitter chocolate bar for shaving

Heat the dessert sauce in small pot or microwave in small bowl. Stir in orange liqueur, cinnamon, and hot pepper. Fill sundae dishes with 2 scoops of ice cream and top with spicy, warm sauce and whipped cream. Using a vegetable peeler, decorate the sundaes with shavings of dark chocolate.

What are your favorite ways to cook with fire?

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Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard loves thinking about, preparing, consuming, and serving good food. Believing that life is to short to eat the same stuff over and over, she loves to test new eats on her friends and family. Kelly loves her coffee-addicted hubbie, her two little blonde-haired babes, all things sweet, black tshirts, and the color pink.

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