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I had a fun time making some chocolate covered nuts yesterday for Easter, so thought I’d share it here…

First, melt the baking chocolate in a double boiler, or a saucepan in a larger saucepan with boiling water…

Then, when its melted, turn off the heat and stir in your nuts – I used hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds.  Coat them well.

Spoon out clusters of nuts – maybe 3-4 nuts per cluster –  and place them onto baking paper/parchment paper lined baking tray and decorate with sprinkles or whatever your heart desires.  Place it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Take them out to sit until brought to room temperature and don’t melt in your hand when you try to pick it up.

If they manage to make it – store them in an airtight container and share them with all your friends!  And Happy Easter to all! : )

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I bought some cranberries the other day from a local farm grocer and I wanted to make something that reminded me of home…but the only time we eat cranberries is at Thanksgiving or as a juice.  So, I decided to make this quick jam this morning and it has turned out lovely!

Just bring the cranberries to a boil with a small amount of water.  I used 3 cups of cranberries with about a 1/3 of a cup of water and 6 tablespoons of raw sugar.  Let that simmer for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Then remove from the heat to cool and then transfer to a jam jar.  Be sure to keep this refrigerated and eat it in about a fortnight.  Happy jamming.

Mark and I love to eat…and we love to save money…but how do we reconcile the two together…??  Well, there’s another component that helps us to save in the kitchen – we both love home-cooked meals!  Making some things from scratch has saved us literally hundreds of pounds/dollars each year – and the best part is that its healthy, too!

We have tried to pare down our kitchen cupboard during our three years of marriage – and I think these are the three main ways we have and will save in the long-run:

Porridge Oats/Oatmeal for breakfast each morning.  A 1Kg bag of oats costs 56p and will last the two of us 5 days.  Multiply that across a year and its roughly £40, or about $65.  Compare that to Fruit & Fibre – a basic bran cereal with dried fruit – where a £1.45 box would last the two of us 3 days – a total of £175 {$280} per year!

Porridge Oatsmorning’s porridge with pecans, cinnamon and honey

Hand-baked bread instead of store-bought.  Making a multi-grain whole-wheat loaf at home in our bread-maker costs about 60p compared to £1.20 per similar loaf in the bakery at our grocery store.  Loaves last us from 2-3 days which means over a year that brings our bread consumption to £90 {$145} per year instead of £180 {$290}.  We’ve been grateful for a new bread-maker that we were given for free – but even if you bought one, it should pay for itself in a year.  So we save – and we love the bread {and its wonderful aroma}!

Oaty Bread

Grains, legumes and pulses in place of some meats.  This one is a little harder to calculate – but based on the prices of each – 8p for 2 servings of Crabeye {Pinto}beans compared to £2-3 for 2 servings of ground beef, we save £2 per meal and have the health benefits of eating high-fibre beans.  If you do this twice a week you end up saving £200 {$320} per year.  This is just a rough calculation – but you can experiment yourself with different grains to get the most savings with your tastes and needs.
Beans

Crabeye {Pinto} Beans

That’s somewhere around £425 {$680} each year we save just from making small, consistent changes to our eating lifestyle.  How are you working toward a frugal + healthy kitchen cupboard?  Share your ideas – I would love to hear them!

Pasta

Photo Credit

A couple days ago I had an adventure in the kitchen making a pasta dinner!  I love pastas that are mostly dry, with a touch of olive oil and amazing vegetables and spices…  So here’s a quick pasta recipe for you!

grilled vegetable pasta – serves 2, prep and cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

180g Whole Wheat pasta of choice
Water to cover pasta
1 T. Mixed herbs – Italian
Half large green and red bell peppers, sliced to 1/4″ pieces
Courgette (zucchini) sliced to 1/4″ pieces (and bite sized length)
3 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C. Cooked tuna or 1/2 tin of tuna or cooked salmon, optional
1/4 C. Grated cheddar cheese, optional

In a saucepan, bring pasta and mixed herbs to a boil and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, put oil, garlic, salt and pepper into a medium mixing bowl and toss in vegetables until well covered.  Place the vegetables on your grill on foil evenly and not overlapping under a medium-high heat for roughly 15 minutes (keep an eye on these and turn foil to prevent over-browning if necessary).  Toss your tuna in the bowl previously used for tossing the vegetables and pop that in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds just prior to serving your dinner.  Serve hot and top with grated cheese for extra goodness!  Enjoy!

Ingredients for an autumn salad

Ingredients for an autumn salad

My outlook on cooking has totally changed now that we have grown some of our own successfully this year.  We’ve had some amazing marrow (squash) and courgette (zucchini) and some creamy little potatoes too.  Only a few of our tomatoes survived the blight…  But oh my!  Its been an adventure!

Courgette and Yam

My man’s parents also grow their own and we often get produce from them or from like-minded friends of theirs.  We’ve also gone to this awesome place called Millets Farm where you can pick your own produce.  Their shop is filled with information on where they’ve sourced their produce from – very helpful stuff.  We were able to buy everything local and fresh – it was great!

Mashed potatoes and yams - scrumptious

Mashed potatoes and yams - scrumptious

There’s something in knowing where your food comes from that gives you a greater sense of its value and nature…  I am hoping to be able to grow a winter salady crop so that we can keep our spirits up during the short, dark months before spring.  If you haven’t tried growing your own – I would definitely recommend it!  A little pot of chives will last years and you just trim when you want some with your jacket potato…

Last night my husband and I went out on a date – and I enjoyed it sooo much!  As soon as he said to look at the movie line-up in town and choose one…I was off in lala land!  He went to his club football {soccer} match and I had several hours to agonize over what to where and get my evening make-up just right…  I felt like a little girl again with all the excitement pulsing through my veins!  It was a special time set apart for the man I love and me to invest in each other!  Did I mention that I love dressing up for my man??!  It was great!!!  I meant to take a photo before we left…but some moments aren’t meant to be intruded upon and I left it be…  But I will always remember his smile and the way we looked at each other {and laughed!} throughout the film…

I would totally recommend this film to bloggers and food lovers {and food eaters!!} near and far…  Julie and Julia was a real hit for both of us – and a great date movie in my opinion because a) it was about two married couples eating a lot! {inspirational} and b) at least when we went, the theatre was scattered with middle-aged women who laughed hysterically at every “funny” thing that Julia did…  We joined right in and were at some points nearly in tears because some of them were sounding a lot like Julia when they giggled!  So loud and high pitched…!!

An awesome cast to top off an great story!

An awesome cast to top off a great story!

Oh, it was definitely a film to remember!  And when we got home we {my hubby, I might add} found Julie’s blog and we enjoyed reminiscing through it after feeling as though we’d just gone through that year with Julie!  Fun!

As we were online, I decided to search facebook to see if my old friend and mentor had joined facebook, her name also Julie…  and to my delight I found her after several years of bad {non-existent} communication {my fault}!  I am so happy!!  She taught me a lot of the foundational things I know about quilting and making handbags…and has definitely been an influence on my style and womanhood!  She taught me things like how to fold a pillowcase – Martha Stewart’s way…and to always drink whole, fresh milk  – I didn’t do enough of that, Julie, and now I am dairy-free because of it {should have listened to the Dairy-farmer’s daughter…} and how to keep memories through photography…  And so much more!  And, now, what a delight it is to see her family grow…

My dear friend Julie and her family

My dear friend Julie and her boys

By the way…I totally recommend the Martha stewart pillow-case folding treatment {bonus: it works for any kind of towel too!}…

Marthas towel-folding expertise...

Martha's towel-folding expertise...

Now, we’re off to our cousin’s baby’s dedication in London, which will be fun as we’ll no-doubt see lots of family as we gather to commit this lovely little one to God’s care…

Enjoy your Sunday!

Our Little Family

today at the nest

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Pattern Challenge