Holiday Recipe Ideas for National Chocolate Day

It’s pretty easy to find an excuse to enjoy our favorite chocolate treat. How easy? Well, National Chocolate Day is on Friday, October 28th. That easy. There’s no better time to try out a new chocolate recipe. Leave the Halloween candy to the kids and bake one of these amazing chocolate recipes for yourself right now.

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Charming Chocolate Fudge
You know it’s holiday season when you start craving chocolate fudge. While there’s really no reason why a delicious creation like fudge has to be held ransom by a specific part of the calendar, the holidays are close enough. This chocolate fudge recipe simplifies the process and provides helpful additional tips for cleanup.


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Rich Chocolate Cookies
The chocolate chip cookie is king. The sugar cookies sneak onto the throne during the holidays. Something as simple as the chocolate cookie is often overlooked, but with the right recipe, like this one from The Food Network, you’ll never leave them off the holiday menu. Get cooking with these LTD kitchen cookie helpers.

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Simple Chocolate Brownies
Ahh, the brownie. Another simple recipe everyone seems to have lying around. It’s probably hard to think of anything you’d want to do to your brownie recipe to make it better. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your brownies for the holidays or just feel like baking with the kids, these brownie ideas are destined to please.


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Easy Chocolate Pudding
If you’ve been taking your chances with store-bought chocolate pudding kits, you might be missing out on a delicious addition to your monthly dessert menu. Putting a homemade spin on your chocolate pudding isn’t just fun to taste-test the difference. Impress holiday guests with this great recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

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5 Simple Ways to Indulge Yourself for Valentine’s Day

Valentines-DayTraditionally, Valentine’s Day is for sweethearts — it feels good to do something nice for our loved ones, but sometimes we need to do something for ourselves, too. We deserve it! So while you’re planning a sweet day for your sweetie, don’t forget to take care of yourself. here are 5 simple ways to indulge yourself for Valentine’s Day.

Girl, Interrupted We go, go, go seven days a week — it’s time for you to stop and take a breather. If you haven’t tried it, meditation is good for shutting out the day-to-day noise and give your brain a break for ten minutes. It may seem a little new age-y, but it helps you focus on the present, reduces stress and cuts down on negative feelings. No one wants to feel angry and anxious on Valentine’s Day!

cozy-catShaggy Snuggles Cats and dogs welcome us home and make our homes a little more loving, but cuddling up with your pets has health benefits, too. The American Heart Association claims they can do your body good by lowering your risk of heart diseases as well as your cholesterol. Dogs and cats are worth all the work and upkeep just for their love, but keeping us healthy is a pretty big bonus.

Embarrassing Indulgences Read the tabloids. Find out who’s wearing what to the Oscars. Listen to boy bands, Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Dance and get silly. Watch romantic comedies and get lost in the boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-chases-girl-and-wins-her-back-with-a sugary-sweet-fairy-tale-ending. Do the things no one else knows you like to do (and that you’re a little embarrassed about).

Get Your Hands Dirty Crafting and artistic challenges are not only fun, they also have psychological benefits. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, making art helps people focus on positive experiences and increases self-worth. Not only will you be creating a one-of-a-kind keepsake, but you’ll feel better about yourself while you’re making it.

ChocolateSweet Sensations We love chocolate. It’s the treat of all treats! Not only does it taste awesome, but, if you get the dark chocolate, it’s good for your health, too! Chocolate has antioxidant properties that reduce the risk of heart disease — among other benefits. While you’re losing yourself in that sweet, velvety chocolate bar, you’re also undoing any damage you might have done with that bag of potato chips.

While you’re planning Valentine’s Day, take a little time treat yourself. Remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Valentine’s Day: The Candy Connection

chocolate-heartsCandy — especially chocolate! — is one of our favorite things to eat so it’s no surprise that Valentine’s Day is an exciting day for candy and chocolate lovers. It’s one day we throw our resolutions for disciplined diets out the window and we can indulge in our favorite treats. The tradition of candy and chocolates on Valentine’s Day had to start somewhere, so we did a little bit of digging to figure out why we give our sweethearts sweets on Valentine’s Day.

Romance We know St. Valentine as the Roman bishop who, in the third century, performed secret marriages for soldiers when it was forbidden. St. Valentine was jailed for this and wrote his jailer’s daughter a letter and signed it “Your Valentine.” This where it is believed the Valentine as we know it was born, but it was hundreds of years before candy became part of the tradition.

Sweets to the Sweet The idea of Valentine’s was preserved through word of mouth and tradition for the next few hundred years — and then literature set the word in stone. Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century poem “Parliament of Fowls” was the first literary reference to Valentine’s Day, but it was Shakespeare who made the reference “sweets to the sweet” in Hamlet in the early 1600s.

chocolate-heartsFood of Love Chocolate has a chemical in it called phenylethylamine. It’s a stimulant that’s released in the brain when people fall in love. The Aztecs, who discovered the cocoa bean, recognized this quality early on. In the early 15th century, Aztec leader Montezuma allegedly indulged in cocoa beans for his romantic  rendezvous. Aztecs also used it as gifts and served it at weddings.

Chocolates for Boxes After chocolate was introduced to Europe, it was initially only consumed as a beverage until the 1840s when manufacturers figured out how to make it into solid candies. Many credit chocolatier Richard Cadbury for Valentine’s Day chocolates. It’s a popular theory that he was the person behind the heart-shaped boxes when his father’s chocolate recipe evolved from drinking chocolate to eating chocolate in the late 1800s. While Richard Cadbury did design elaborate boxes for fancy chocolates, the company doesn’t claim he was the person who popularized Valentine’s Day boxes of chocolate. However, according to the New York Times, confectioners started selling Valentine’s Day chocolates in heart-shaped boxes in the 1890s.

conversation-heartsCandy Chat About the same time Cadbury was perfecting chocolate, a Massachusetts company was innovating other types of sweets. New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) designed the first candy machine in 1847. In 1866, they started producing “Conversation Candies,” a precursor to conversation hearts. It was around 1902 Sweetheart conversation hearts began production. Those conversation candies are still made today with updated phrases. This year’s new phrases include “BFF” (Best Friends Forever), “TE AMO” (I love you in Spanish), “JE T’AIME” (I love you in French), and “Pugs and Kittens” (for animal lovers).

While there may not be an actual connection between sweets and sweethearts, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to eat chocolate and candy guilt-free. Whether you use the day to feed your sweet tooth or you take the day to honor your sweetheart, the tradition of sending Valentine’s Day candy will live on.

Chocolate Covered Anything Day: Unusual Things Covered in Chocolate

ChocolateDecember 16 is Chocolate Covered Anything Day! Just about anything is better when it’s dipped in chocolate, but there are some chocolate lovers out there that take it to the extreme. Here are some of the more unusual things covered in chocolate you might find on world travels or right here at home.

Bugs Some people love a little texture to go with chocolate, but while we add texture with almonds or peanuts, in Thailand, some may opt for the crunch of a cricket with their chocolate. In general, bugs are a common snack in Thailand and you can find all sorts of chocolate-dipped insects — scorpions, super worms, grasshoppers — if it’s creepy and it’s crawly, it can probably be covered in chocolate.

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Image Source: Scanna283 via Flicker

Spuds We love potatoes in all forms — crunchy chips, hot fries, boiled and mashed. There’s no shortage of delicious ways to eat potatoes, but someone out there decided to gild our potato lily by dousing it in chocolate.  The salty and sweet snack of chocolate covered potato chips made it to market last year for a limited run. In case you didn’t get your hands on any, you can mix your chocolate and potatoes at home — The Food Network has a recipe for Chocolate Covered Potato Eggs you can try.

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Image Source: John via Flickr

Pork Two great tastes that taste great together: pork and chocolate! At Coor’s Field in Denver, the concessions stands serve chocolate covered bacon to go with your beer and ball game — a fan favorite. But you don’t have to go all the way to Mile High City to get your pork and chocolate fix; you can make your very own chocolate covered pork rinds to tide you over until you get a Rockies ticket.

chocolate-covered-squid

Image Source: Ryan McBride via Flickr

Seafood A lot of Americans are landlocked, so we may not be as adventurous with our seafood as some of our island friends who get pretty creative with their seafood snacks. In Japan you can find such delicacies as squid dipped in chocolate. Or, if you find yourself in South Korea, rather than getting your salty-sweet craving satisfied from chocolate covered potato chips, you might select something with a taste of the ocean like chocolate covered seaweed.

chocolate-covered-pretzelsVeggies Midwesterners love their state fairs and it’s become a favorite place for culinary adventures like the deep-fried Twinkie or Mars Bar. But in Minnesota, they see your fried food and raise you chocolate covered: fried pickles dipped in chocolate. In Wisconsin, where they’re known for the cheese, they fry cheese bites breaded with Cocoa Puffs served with a side of chocolate. Head east and you don’t have to wait for the state fair to try something exotic with your chocolate — in Philadelphia, you can sample the chocolate covered onion year-round.

You don’t have to dip any weird food in chocolate to celebrate Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Chocolate covered pretzels or even peanut cups keeps you in the spirit of the day.

Halloween Party Food for Adults

Halloween parties aren’t just for kids! Here are some ideas to make adult food into spooky snacks for a haunting Halloween party!

As adults we don’t crave sweets as much as kids, so dips are a go-to party favorite. From our Gooseberry patch 101 Slow Cooker Recipes book, we have a couple of dips you might want to try.

One of our favorites is the Hot Buffalo Dip (Yum!). It takes all the mess out of Buffalo wings but keeps the tastiness intact.

buffalo-dipWhat you need:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup hot wing sauce
  • 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), cubed and softened
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup blue cheese salad dressing

For serving:

  • 1 bag Corn chips
  • 1 package celery, cleaned and cut into sticks

In a slow cooker, mix the first five ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for three to four hours.

pumpkin-bowlsFor adult Halloween parties, it’s not so much about what you serve at a Halloween party, it’s how you serve it. To dress this up for Halloween, serve this in a pumpkin bowl or make one out of a gourd.

For something a little more spicy, try Creamy Hot Corn Dip served with bread sticks shaped like bones!

What you need:

  • 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), softened
  • 2 cans corn (15 1/4oz), drained
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 jalapenos, diced

corn-dipCombine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes; stir until smooth. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm.

For bone shaped bread:

  • 1 can refrigerated breadsticks

Preheat oven as indicated on the packaging. Unroll the dough. Pull the dough apart at the perforations and stretch each piece to make 12 inch ropes. Tie a loose knot at each end of the dough ropes. Bake as directed.

Mummy-dogs

Image Source: Robot B via flickr

(The dough can also be used to wrap around hot dogs or sausage to look like mummies.)

Of course, it’s not a Halloween party if you don’t have at least a few sweets. But, as adults, we don’t need fun size candy bars – we prefer our chocolate in the shape of spiders! These Peanutty Clusters transform into spiders with just a little garnish.

What you need:

  • 2lbs White melting chocolate, chopped
  • 4oz bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 24oz dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 package black licorice lace, trimmed to 2” pieces or pretzel sticks (for the spider legs)

Peanutty-ClustersCombine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for one hour. Reduce the heat to low and let cook for another hour or until the chocolate is melted, stirring every 15 minutes. When it’s ready, drop chocolate one teaspoon at a time on wax paper. While it’s still warm, stick the licorice pieces or pretzels into the chocolate to look like spider legs. Let stand until set.

Halloween isn’t just about the food — the Halloween decorations have a lot to do with how spooky your snacks are perceived. We have many more ideas for holiday decorating and gifts at LTDCommodities.com where everything is #PricedForFun!

3 Ways to Ensure Your Water is Safe

tap-waterDrinking tap water is much better for your budget than investing in bottled water, but it is imperative to be aware of the fact that you could be exposing yourself and your family to lead or any other harmful elements. With these tips you will be able to feel secure about your water for you and your family.

What Causes Lead in Water?
In most cases, tap water does not contain lead until after it leaves a treatment plant and become exposed to your household plumbing. In older houses, plumbing can contain corroded materials such as lead pipes, brass faucets or copper pipes, thereby, passing lead to you and your family.
The only way to know for certain if there is lead in your water is to have it tested, but you can also take preventative steps even if you have not been through the testing process.

Below are three tips for staying safe:

1. Replace rusted or corroded plumbing
This tip is more costly but it will definitely ensure your family is not consuming lead. This option is most appropriate for individuals seeking to completely upgrade their plumbing system.

2. Flushing your taps
In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, flushing your taps by letting them run for at least 60 seconds is a good way to remove any lead that could be present in your pipes. However, if you have a lead service line, it is necessary to let your taps run for at least three to four minutes to be on the safe side.

3. Heat water later
Additionally, anyone who knows that they have a lead issue should never use hot water for drinking and cooking because this will dissolve the lead more quickly. It is especially imperative to steer clear of hot water that is contaminated with lead when you are making baby formula. Instead, you should heat up water after getting it from the cold faucet.

How Can I Get My Water Tested?

In most areas, your county health department will help you with the process of getting your water tested. You also have the option of utilizing a state certified laboratory, but this is likely to be more expensive. Additionally, you can obtain an inexpensive lead home test kit, and this is often the preferred method of people on a budget.

For example, if your New York landlord is aware that there is lead in the building’s water, they need to correct this issue by replacing the pipes. Failure to do this can easily lead to a lawsuit and perhaps the hiring of an injury lawyer in NY, especially if someone becomes ill as a result. Hopefully, this type of scenario is far and in between.

We are encouraged to drink ample amounts of water as a way to stay healthy and vibrant. However, this becomes a problem when our water is not a well of health. In the end, regardless of the steps you take to ensure the integrity of your water, safety is the main objective and the above mentioned tips can help to accomplish this goal.

Jamica Bell is a freelance writer and blogger. As the wife of a environmental safety professional, she has acquired significant knowledge regarding lead toxicity over the last decade. During her research of an injury lawyer in NY and other resources, she was able to see just how much of an impact this type of injury can have on individuals, especially children.

Image Credit: shine.yahoo.com