Cocoa for a crowd with peppermint sticks, marshmallows and whipped cream

Cancer and Snow Days

Cocoa with all the trimmings
Make your cocoa for a crowd special, with lots of added goodies like real whipped cream and peppermint sticks.

Noah had a snow day on Friday. We corralled a couple of his buddies and after more time than expected gathering coats, hats, gloves and boots from every closet in the house, they walked through the woods to the sledding hill while I got to work in the kitchen. Homemade hot cocoa, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies awaited their return.

When I see friends after a year or so and they ask, “Are you still doing the real estate thing?” I know how to answer them now. Cancer and snow days. When you hear that little six-letter word, you never know how it will affect you. For me, it brought about laser focus to my priorities and where I belong. I acquired a certain level of clarity after the closing of my restaurant, but it was hammered home with one little sentence.

You have breast cancer.

Those were tough words to swallow. So, as I entertained three sweet, hungry 12-year-old boys on a glorious, snowy day, I felt the joy maybe only someone with a new lease on life can feel. The next time I’m asked if I’m still trying the ‘real estate thing’, I’ll throw back my shoulders, and with no hint of apology, say that I’m cooking, doing snow days and caring for my family. Because I’m a survivor, and because I can.

See my hot cocoa for a crowd recipe below!

Here’s the backstory:

For those of you who don’t already know me, I owned a tasty little restaurant in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio for quite a few years. Seven, to be exact. It came time to close the doors and I did so with a very heavy heart. The beauty from that pain: it allowed me to focus my time and attention on my family, something I hadn’t done for far too long. I am blessed to be able to care for them.

After a few years at the helm of the home, it was time to get back out into the world. Real estate was always interesting to me, so I spent some time getting licensed. As the spring arrived, I was getting down to the business of helping friends and family buy and sell homes.

But then…

Fate stepped in and (as I’ve heard many others say), 2019 became a year of health challenges. After a springtime injury that resulted in a spinal fusion, I was on the road to recovery when diagnosed with breast cancer, which resulted in the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. In all that time, real estate was the last thing on my mind. Food and entertaining my family were the things that kept my spirits up during those dark days. I decided that God and Fate were showing me the way.

Now I am here, sharing my love of cooking with you. But not just cooking. To me, it’s a complete package. The way the house feels, looks and smells when friends walk through the front door all work together to make every occasion special. That doesn’t always mean a meal that took hours to prepare. It could be as simple as a few slices of cheese laid out beautifully on a platter, next to store bought meat, olives and crackers with glasses of cold wine to enjoy a spring evening.

If your guests are welcomed into open arms and a happy home, they will remember the good times you shared. My goal is to convey to you the things I’ve learned about hospitality over the years. Come along on this journey of food and fun. I hope it brings you as much joy as it does me. Here’s to living a beautiful life.

Feel free to ask questions about the next party or meal you’re planning! Get in touch with me at:

Hot Cocoa For A Crowd

Recipe by CandaceCourse: DrinksDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Rich and sweet, this hot cocoa will please any crowd!


  • 3/4 cup cocoa

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes

  • 6 ounces hot water

  • 4 cups half & half

  • 4 cups milk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


  • In large pot, mix together cocoa, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes and water with whisk. Add half & half and milk and stir until no lumps remain.
  • Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  • Serve with whatever you have lying around your kitchen or pantry: marshmallows, peppermint sticks or candies, red hots, chocolate chips, and whipped cream are my favorites (along with peppermint schnapps or coffee liqueur for the adults!)


  • I make this big batch anytime, whatever we don’t use can be stored in the refrigerator and heated in the microwave, a cup at a time, for a quick weekday pick-me-up!


  1. I think you may be my spirit daughter. I could not agree more to your philosophy. Aunt Shari used to say, Nan “we are making memories” We love your new blog!

  2. So happy to read this today! As a patron of her restaurant -she is an amazing chef and host! I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 48, 13 years ago. Congratulations on continuing your passion and winning your cancer battle
    Love, Peggy D’Amico

  3. Thank you for sharing. Cancer touch’s all of us weather it be personally, a cherished family member or a very very dear friend. Look forward to more blogs.

    With deep respect and love

  4. This is so great!! It’s so true too! Nothing is more important – friends often laugh because my dinner for 4 can easily end up feeding 8 with leftovers! It’s like God steps in and it turns into the fishes and loaves! Noah’s friends will always want to come over!

  5. Candace, my wife n I along with several friends and family have eaten at the Hawthorn Grill in the 7 yrs you were open. Always special. Food & service above & beyond expectations. Everyone I know who had eaten there felt the same. Would love to dine with you again. Best of luck to you going forward.
    Don & Debbie

  6. Congrats Candace! I can’t wait to read more and of course, I always love your entertainment and food! We are so lucky to live next door 🙂

  7. Candy I was so surprised by your health issues, but I know you from day one and am happy to see you back in the world that you love, besides your family. Keep up the great job and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

  8. This is very awesome. Beautiful story and so glad you shared with everyone. God speed and the best to you on your new adventure.

  9. I’ll never forget when we first met. I can’t remember why we were over at your home or how, but I do remember the way you made us feel and the food you prepared for us that day. You are truly the hostess with the most-ess. Would love to learn from you!

  10. Wow Cinnamon Candy 😜. It’s nice to know you are back doing what you love and having that time with the family. You have been a great inspiration for me my entire career you gave me my start and to hear this and know your strength is an even more inspiration. You are a tough cookie and I know things can only get better from now on. I will be looking forward to your blogs so I can continue to make your recipes.
    Love ya Hum Lee

  11. This is great!! Can’t wait to try all of your recipes! So happy to see you back in your comfort zone and quite the writer!

  12. Hope this year is much better than last year for you and your family. I was very happy to see your email in my inbox and read about your blog, etc. Your cooking has always brought joy to my soul. I appreciate you sharing this with us…now, if I could only master your out-of-this-world mushroom soup! Looking forward future entries. Thank you and may God bless you with good health.

  13. So good to hear from hear from you. We had many delicious meals in your restaurant and miss it very much. I look forward to many more of your yummy recipes. Prayers for your continued healing and full restoration to health and happiness.

  14. Candace. I think about you all the time….I keep saying, I have to call her and have lunch….I knew about the back surgery…didn’t know about the breast cancer….girl, you are all powerful…and you can punch that cancer out of your life….

  15. Congrats on all your success and kicking cancer! Loved your restaurant and would love to see more recipes!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story – struggles and all. When we come through adversity, we triumph! I’m thrilled to see your recipes! Thank you for sharing food!

    • Hi Larry,
      I’m working on it! The tech curve is steep!
      Hope you’re well and I’ll send another note when I have the bugs worked out!

    • My husband and I were just discussing Hawthorne the other day. So sorry and yet, happy about your outlook and recovery.

      Stay strong!

  17. Candace, when I drive by the old restaurant, it kills me to remember what we lost in your lovely restaurant. Glad you are back to doing what you were born to do.

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