Homemade Popcorn & Hot Cocoa

There’s a blustery frigid wind outside our house today. Makes me thankful for a snug home, warm mittens, and coats for my kids.

But I must tell the truth…my definition of cold is anything below 40 degrees. So waking up to a whopping 19 degrees…that’s cold for me! I should feel bad thinking this is cold when so many of you are dealing with subzero temps right now. But I’m just a warm weather girl, and apparently so are the school district officials here. We are on a 2 hour delay right now because it feels like 6 degrees outside. Seems pretty chilly to me if I were sending my 5 year old out to wait for the bus. But I’m sure if you woke to 0 degree temps, you’d gladly take 19 right now!

During the last cold snap, the kids and I spent a perfect afternoon indoors making homemade popcorn and hot cocoa. Is there anything more enjoyable on a cold winter day?


Alton Brown makes perfect homemade popcorn. His secret is making a tinfoil lid with slits for the steam to escape. After numerous attempts that failed every time, I was thrilled when I came across his recipe.

Hot cocoa is so easy to make at home and once you try it, you’ll wonder why you’ve ever used the instant stuff. There really is no comparison for homemade hot chocolate. And all you need to do is follow the directions on the back of the cocoa box.

Trick of the trade…if you are making an individual serving in the microwave…mix the cocoa & sugar in bottom of mug and then pour just a tad (a few tbsp) of milk into the mug. Stir this mixture really well so that it’s completely mixed prior to pouring the remaining milk in. It isn’t pretty when you try to mix the cocoa & sugar in with a full glass of milk…trust me!

I hope you & yours stay warm and dry! And if you have snow…lucky you! With weather this cold it should be white outside.

~ Jess


Classic Pot Roast

This meal is nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, but is so good in the simple essence of roasted beef. It is comforting on a cold night and can be served to good friends over for dinner to just catch up & relax. I hope you enjoy!

Budget Note: This grass fed 1.5 pound boneless chuck roast cost me under $12 and fed 4 adults. The portions were a healthy amount combined with a side of brown rice and roasted carrots & onions. The total cost for my entire dinner was $4/person. So maybe next week you can find some locally raised, grass fed beef to include in your weekly menu. And, if you only fed 2 adults this roast, you could put the leftovers into a stir fry to stretch the meat further.

Classic Pot Roast

3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tsp olive or canola oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Worcesteshire or Heinz 57 Sauce
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1.5 lb boneless chuck roast

1 small yellow onion, cut into quarters
2 cups fresh baby carrots, sliced in half
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine

In a gallon size Ziploc bag mix together all of the marinade ingredients and then add the roast. Allow to marinate for 4-8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a dutch oven or oven safe skillet, heat apprx. 2 tsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Remove roast from marinade and discard marinade. Apply kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to roast and then sear on each side for approximately 4-5 minutes. This helps seal in the juices. Once all sides have been seared, remove roast from pan.

Reduce heat to low and add onions, carrots, and garlic. Saute for approximately 1 minute and then add in chicken broth, stirring up the browned bits on bottom of pan. Remove from heat and place 1 bay leaf on the top of carrots & onions.

On top of this, place the roast. Then add the remaining bay leaf on top of the roast.

Lastly, pour the red wine over the bay leaf and roast.

Place pan into preheated oven and allow to cook for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. The time in oven will all depend upon the size of your roast. If your roast is 3 to 4 pounds it will probably require 1.5 to 2 hours roasting time. Use a digital thermometer (LOVE MY HUSBAND….he got me a new (and working one) for Christmas!) to determine when your roast is finished. Medium rare will be 145 degrees; medium will be 160 degrees; and well-done will be 170 degrees.

Remove your roast from pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Resting allows all the juices to settle back down. Enjoy with the carrots & onions. This would also be great served with mashed potatoes. Maybe, blue cheese mashed potatoes? Yummm! Also, the juices in the bottom of the pan make this even juicier!

I’d love to hear if you try the recipe out or if you have another classic pot roast recipe you use.

Cheers to eating locally & humanely raised cattle!