easy

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the day we show our love… I love my husband… I love my kids… I love chocolate-covered strawberries! They are little, red, sweet, and fruity gifts wrapped in chocolate packages. The best part is, well, eating them. But the second best part is that they require very little skill. I don’t know if you’ve made them before, but I want you to know that it is so easy a four-year-old can do it.

As organic as possible:

2 pints (16-18) fresh Strawberries

1 bag (approx 11.5 oz.) Milk-Chocolate chips

1/2 bag (approx 6 oz.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips

1/2 bag (approx 6 oz.) White Chocolate chips (optional)

I know in a lot of professional dessert shops, they don’t rinse the strawberries. They actually use a soft brush and clean them like you would a mushroom. I understand the reasoning: you don’t want the extra moisture content to separate the berry from the chocolate. I get it. That said, I’m a little weird about not rinsing my fruit off.

I do use organic strawberries; which is important to me, not eating all of the toxic pesticides, not to mention GMO’s… But this is about Valentine’s Day -so let’s not go there! All I’m saying is that I rinse off my berries. Then pat them dry with a paper towel and let them sit until they are dry again. (I also realize that for someone who cares about the earth I use way too many paper towels.)

Now that we’ve got the dirty part out of the way, let’s get back to those clean berries. When they’re dry, all you need to do is melt your chocolate.

 

If you have a heavy bottomed saucepan, you could put the heat on low and let the chocolate slowly melt. However, it’s a more subtle and foolproof way to do the traditional double broiler method. Just put about an inch of water in the bottom of a sauce pan and set a glass bowl on the top (not touching the water) and set the heat on med-high letting the water come to a boil. Stir often until the chocolate is melted through, and no more chocolate lumps are visible. Carefully move the bowl to your work station (most likely the counter top).

Next, simply hold the berries by their green tips and dip and roll the fruit around in a chocolate bath until the berry is mostly covered with chocolate.

Let the excess drip off and then place them on a wax paper lined baking sheet.

It’s a simple as that, and you can totally stop there and eat your berries -and be happy. But my sweetheart happens to like white chocolate so I took it a step further and melted a little more goodness. This time because of the small amount, I microwaved the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, then 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate was smooth.

Because I am not a pastry shop I just used a Ziploc baggy with a hole cut in the corner for my drizzle.

Using a back and forth zigzag motion, draw the white lines across your chocolate-covered berries. Let the kids help, this doesn’t have to be perfection! (Unless you’re selling them, then you need to be meticulous… please refer to another blog.)

The work is done! Let the berries set for a while until the chocolate cools and hardens. If you have a refrigerator large (and sparse) enough to hold the trays… Lucky you! Just kidding. It can help the chocolate set faster.

And if you have a little extra chocolate that you don’t want to waste… Consider dipping in cookies, or graham crackers!

 Or of course, cleaning out the bowl yourself is always a viable option.

I hope your day is full of LOVE! (and chocolate)

Easy Crock Pot Roast

I know, I know… I’m too busy to blog recipes. I’m too busy for sleep. But the family still has to eat. So, when your sister says “Hey, I’ve got your dinner covered tonight,” it makes you appreciate the holiday season even more. I’ve got to pass it along! Maybe you’re busy too, but if you can get the ingredients in the crock pot… you can have a healthy dinner ready when you are. Better yet, maybe you know someone that could use a break? Maybe you can spread a little holiday cheer! No matter the occasion, if it’s cold outside this dinner is for you.

As organic as possible:

1 pound bag of organic baby carrots

1 1/2 pounds organic golden potatoes halved

1 large onion quartered (in large pieces)

3 pound beef roast

1/4 tsp Seasoned salt

1 tbsp Kosher salt

1 tsp cracked pepper

1/2 tsp Onion powder

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup low sodium Soy sauce

1 sprig Thyme

1 sprig Rosemary

2 cups Beef broth

 

Sprinkle roast only with seasoned salt lightly. Set aside. Put carrots, onions, potatoes, salt, pepper, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce in the crockpot. Give a little stir. Place roast on top. Pour in broth and lay thyme and rosemary on the roast.

Set crock pot on low for eight hours. If able, after two hours of cooking time rotate vegetables to top of roast to prevent too much softening.

Please enjoy the smell of your home; comfort food at it’s finest.

Easy Crock Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bag of organic baby carrots
  • 1 1/2 pounds organic golden potatoes halved
  • 1 large onion quartered (in large pieces)
  • 3 pound beef roast
  • 1/4 tsp Seasoned salt
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Onion powder
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup low sodium Soy sauce
  • 1 sprig Thyme
  • 1 sprig Rosemary
  • 2 cups Beef broth

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle roast only with seasoned salt lightly. Set aside.
  2. Put carrots, onions, potatoes, salt, pepper, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce in the crockpot.
  3. Give a little stir.
  4. Place roast on top. Pour in broth and lay thyme and rosemary on the roast.
  5. Set crock pot on low for eight hours. If able, after two hours of cooking time rotate vegetables to top of roast to prevent too much softening.
  6. Please enjoy the smell of your home; comfort food at it's finest.
http://sadiesnest.com/easy-crock-pot-roast/

Entertaining the Kids: Pumpkin Fun!

It’s pumpkin time! Woohoo! I am not a pumpkin carver. Boo, hiss, say what you will. It is no secret that I’m not a craft lover. Thankfully I have creative people in my life who enhance the creativity in my children. For example my mother, who found this activity on Pinterest. Hurray for grandmas! As it is, I have young children not ready for carving themselves. So this is a perfect option, even for last minute too.

What you need:

plastic/cloth or newspaper

pumpkins

glue stick

crayons

hair dryer

Oh, and that secret ingredient: enthusiasm!

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Place the plastic or cloth on your workspace. This doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a garbage bag on your kitchen table. Place the pumpkins in go position (on top of your prepared workspace). Tip: Use room temperature pumpkins

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Unwrap and break the crayons in half. My kids liked this part best.

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Use the glue stick around the top of the pumpkin stem to get a sticky surface for the crayons. Place the crayons around in your own artistic color pattern. And hey, if you want to use a pumpkin with a nicer fuller stem than ours, that’s your prerogative.

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When crayons are set, bust out that hairdryer and blow! This could get messy (hence the table cover).

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You’ll naturally find that you need to adjust the hairdryer angle to work the drips, mostly from directly above facing down. We also found that working one section at a time seemed easier than letting the wax harden again as you try to go around.

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Have fun! Then admire your work Picasso!

Easy Mostaccioli

“Don’t take a picture” she said, “the cheese is stuck to the top of the foil.” My much loved friend AnnMarie knew I’ve hardly been able to walk, let alone cook for my family. She texted me a couple days ago to ask me what I’d like to eat and what night she could bring dinner over. Of course I told her I would share no such information, but thanked her for the offer. Naturally Annie, being her beautiful self, said she’d be over in 2 days. She walked through the door with enough meals for a week, plus a blueberry pie. I was ravenous that day, and cheesy pasta is like the epitome of comfort food. She loaded up the refrigerator and freezer dividing the organic meals, explaining this is the cheese for the broccoli rice casserole; these are the shells for the tacos; placing buns for hot dogs in the bread basket… The mostaccioli was warm and ready to serve, the whole house smelled amazing. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding? It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

As organic as possible:

2 lbs ground Beef

Salt & pepper to taste

3 jars (approx 24 oz each) of your favorite store bought or homemade pasta Sauce

1 lb Mostaccioli (or penne) noodles

1 lb (16 oz) shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Brown the meat with a little salt and pepper in a large skillet. Add the pasta sauce and get it hot; let it simmer for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, cook the pasta according to package directions- less a couple minutes. (They will be a little firm, but soften in the oven while baking). When the noodles are done, mix them in with the sauce. Pour everything into a 9X13 pan and sprinkle on all of the mozzarella cheese. Bake it in the oven for about 25 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Serve with a good crusty bread immediately to your hungry family, or cover with foil and deliver to someone in need. Either way, it’s delicious and they will be forever grateful.

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A Valentine’s Day Gift – Almost Nigella Lawson’s Everyday Brownies

It’s Valentine’s Day! Which is practically synonymous with chocolate and love. And I can’t think of a better way to highlight both than to make a batch of homemade brownies. As Nigella says in her book, “It’s not as if I were short of a brownie recipe or two.” I understand that the brownie (chocolatey, gooey, warm…) is highly subjective to personal taste. But I’m going to come right out and say it: This is the best from scratch brownie I’ve ever had.

Makes 16

1 1/4 sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted Butter

1 3/4 cups (packed) light Brown Sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup all-purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Salt

4 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar, to dust (optional)

1 x aluminum foil-lined baking pan approx 13x9x2 (I used parchment paper)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan.

When it’s melted, add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (still over a low heat) to help it blend with the melted butter.

Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt, and then stir into the pan; when mixed (this will be a very dry mixture, and not wholly blended at this stage), remove from the heat.

In a bowl or pitcher, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and then mix into the brownie mixture in the pan.

Quickly pour and scrape mixture into a foil-lined baking pan or disposable foil pan, spreading the mixture with a spatula, and cook in the preheated oven for approx. 20-25 minutes. It will look set, dark and dry on top, but when you feel the surface, you will sense it is still wibbly underneath and a cake tester will come out gungy. This is desirable.

Transfer the pan to a rack to cool a little before cutting into 16 pieces and dusting with confectioner’s sugar. I love these gorgeously warm. But then again, I love them cold, too. Actually, when cold they are properly speaking more brownie-like; gooily tender within and chewy on top.

I agree with Nigella completely about the texture… mine were perfectly done in 20 minutes. If you’d like, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter before dusting with powdered sugar and serving. Have a great day full of love (and chocolate)!

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Spicy Pork Nachos

Are nachos like one of the best food creations ever? It’s this pile of complimentary flavors and contrasting textures that together make for one awesome combination of a bite. Salty, savory, cheesy, creamy, fresh… Like an orchestra playing a symphony- for your mouth. And it’s so easy to cater to your own taste. If you want it on there, well go ahead and put it on the stack. If you don’t like it, you know what (not) to do. We love making nachos. I’ve used beef, chili, turkey and now thanks to the inspiration of Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table, my very own spicy pork nachos.

As organic as possible:

1 1/2 cups Refried Beans (or 1 can)

1/2 cup Mild or Hot Taco Sauce (homemade or store bought)

1 bag Corn chips (you will probably have some leftover)

1 lb Fiesta Pulled Pork (or shredded pork of your choice)

2 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (or Manchego)

2 oz sliced or dices Jalapeños

4 oz Queso Fresco, crumbled

2 scallions, sliced

Optional toppings for serving include (but are not limited to) salsa, sour cream, pico de gallo…

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium sauce pan on medium-low heat, warm refried beans and taco sauce until beans are soft and pliable for easier spreading, and more flavorful for layers of deliciousness.

Using a large flat baking dish, pizza stone or baking sheet place the corn chips in a single to double layer, overlapping the chips so there is no space for toppings to fall through.

Start the layering process with the bean and sauce combination. Use a spoon the kind of drop and spread the beans in an evenly sporadic way on top of the chips until all of the mixture is used. (I’ve also used a canned organic vegetarian chili.) Next scatter the bite-sized pieces of tender and spicy pork in an covering over the beans and chips. Follow the pork with with a nice layer of cheddar cheese. Cheese is extremely important when it comes to nachos, so be generous. For a little heat and a splash of color, lightly and evenly sprinkle the jalapeños atop of the cheese.

Place that dish of loaded goodness in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, and gooey, about 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove the nachos from the oven and top with crumbled queso fresco, sliced scallions… and salsa. Enjoy!

 

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Caroling Chili

Everyone can use a great ‘chili for a crowd’ recipe this time of year! This recipe is delicious and plentiful, perfect for holiday gatherings, football bowl game parties, inviting the kids sports teams over, etc. Aunt Leann has been making it for years and has it down to a science. So get those invitations out, you got this.

Preferably cooked in a roaster, but a large stock pot works too.

Serves 40

5 lbs Turkey Burger (such as 93/7 Turkey Store Brand)

1 – 48 oz bottle of V-8 Tomato Juice

4 – 30.5 oz cans of Brooks Chili Beans (Hot or Mild depending on your taste, 2 of each suggested)

3 packets of McCormicks chili seasoning packets

2 – 15.5 cans Great Northern Beans

2 – 15.25 oz cans Black Beans

2 – 15.5 oz cans Light Red Kidney Beans

2 – 28 oz cans Petite Diced Tomatoes

1 – 20 oz can Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies

2 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp onion powder

1/8 cup of Chili powder

 

Brown the 5 lbs of turkey burger in a frying pan, and cook down until all liquid evaporates, using a potato masher to break the meat into small pieces.

Pour the container of V-8 into the roaster. Add the browned turkey and all 3 packets of seasoning. Stir. Add all four cans of Brook’s Chili beans, DO NOT drain and stir to combine. Gently mix in the petite diced tomatoes and Rotel tomatoes with chillies.

Open all Great Northern, Black and Kidney beans. Pour beans into a colander and lightly rinse. Pour beans into roaster and gently combine with meat mixture. Sprinkle mixture with garlic, onion and chili powder. Stir.

Cook 3-4 hours on medium low heat with lid off, stirring periodically. Be careful not to boil.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, crackers and diced onion… And enjoy your party!

 

Crockpot Toffee Nut Clusters

When I think about what I like in a candy, it usually involves chocolate and nuts, chewy and crunchy, sweet and salty. I also really love toffee. Lucky for me there is really not much I don’t like. And even luckier for me, these little clusters of goodness have it all! Recently I shared with you about my cousin Charlotte. Thankfully she shared this recipe with me! It really couldn’t get much easier either. It makes a lot of these chocolatey and nutty packages, so it’s great for giving as gifts or sharing at the office. And not to worry, if there are still leftovers… they freeze well too. Enjoy!

2 small jars (16 oz each) dry roasted peanuts (1 salted, 1 unsalted)

3 lbs or blocks of white almond bark, vanilla Candiquick or vanilla candy coating, chopped into small pieces

1/2 lb Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1 bag Heath chips

1 bag Milk chocolate chips

1 bag Semi sweet chocolate chips

*Also a full size crockpot, a sturdy spoon and a strong arm 😉

Put everything in the crockpot on low. Stir often. When all is melted and no more dashes of white or dark spots of chocolate can be seen (about an hour), spoon in globs on wax or parchment paper until it hardens (a couple more hours).

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And you get to feel like a chocolatier, so that’s cool.

It makes a vat full, so be prepared to share or freeze the clusters and bring them out in batches. They will last a few months in the freezer.

Loving Lately ❤️

For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I love sharing family stories, recipes and random thoughts at large. Every Thursday I try to share something I appreciate, easy “how-tos”, food and products, etc. that I think others might enjoy too.

This week’s Loving Lately: My chalkboard

I was talking to my husband about how I wished I had one of those whimsical “Merry & Bright” signs that I’ve been seeing everywhere, when it dawned on me; I could make my own. Boy, have I gotten a lot of use out of this chalkboard! I use it to list the menu for dinner gatherings, personalize a “Happy Birthday _____” sign for a member of our family, and post inspirational sayings on any given day of the week. It was just what I wanted (in a representation kind of way), but even better because it was homemade.

…And how nice is it not to have one more thing to store? Priceless;)

Dad’s Sausages

Ok, many of you may know these as cocktail sausages. I think often people use Vienna style sausages. But when I have these little round beauties I can’t think of anyone else but my dad. The smell of these cooking for almost every special gathering is like synonymous with holiday cheer. They are extremely easy to make. I mean at it’s technical height its about not cutting the meat too thin (because it shrinks as it cooks), while not making it too hunky to eat in one bite. You could make your own chili sauce (and I have) but that’s not dad’s recipe. And who can’t use a simple and tasty appetizer when hosting a gathering?

1 pound cooked sausage such as Dearborn Holiday Sausage (Kielbasa), sliced in rounds about 1/2″ thick

1 – 12 oz bottle chili sauce (such as Heinz)

*Can be easily double, tripled, quadrupled…

Place all ingredients in a crockpot on high for about 3 hours or on the stove top at a simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has reduced (thick and sticky) and sausages are loaded with flavor, serve retro cocktail party style with toothpicks. Stay Classic.