Friday, December 12, 2014

Swiss Colony 32 Holiday Favorites Gift Box Review + Giveaway!


Christmas is just around the corner and if you're like me you're still trying to find those perfect gifts for everyone on your list! Today I wanted to share a delicious gift idea for pretty much anyone  who loves delicious goodies and I also wanted to give you a chance to WIN one for yourself! That's right... you could have one of these delicious holiday goodie boxes all to yourself! Or you could give it as a gift... whichever you choose! :)


This box is called the "32 Holiday Favorites" gift box and it's from Swiss Colony. Over the years I have enjoyed so many of Swiss Colony's delicious desserts, sausages, cheeses, candies and other yummy products and never once have they disappointed me!

I have talked to so many people who say they remember getting Swiss Colony gift boxes in the mail from their relatives during the holidays when they were younger and it was one of the highlights of the season! 


For me, when it comes to the sausage and cheese... it's all about the cheese logs. I am a cheese log maniac, folks. I love cheesy anything, really. My hubby is the sausage guy and my daughter is the... well, she's in the middle I guess. She likes both equally. 

But, seriously... give me a cheese log if you want to make me happier than you could ever imagine. Or if you just want to distract me for a long period of time...


The garden vegetable cheese log {the one in the middle!} was my favorite of the bunch. Plus, it was super festive-looking! I made up a big platter of Swiss Colony cheese logs, crackers and sausages for the family and we ate them as we watched some of our favorite holiday movies! 


Okay so... as much as I love a good cheese log... I have to say, my heart is with the desserts. My full heart, that is... Especially chocolate! The chocolate torte is one of my favorite parts of this box! Scratch that, it's my favorite part of this box! The peppermint one is a close second and I don't even normally like peppermint flavored desserts! That's how delicious it is.

The "32 Holiday favorites" box comes with 8 cheeses (including cheddar and colby -- yum!), 8 cheese logs (including garden vegetable and smoky cheddar/pecan), 8 desserts (including fruitcake and multiple tortes!) and 8 delicious beef logs (including summer sausage and caraway sausage!)

Are you drooling yet? If you'd like a chance to win all of these delicious holiday treats, use the Rafflecopter form below!! If you win you can decide if you want to keep this box all for yourself, share with family (and/or friends) or give it away as a gift to someone special! 

Follow Swiss Colony on Facebook, Twitter and visit their site here.

ENTER BELOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!!!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is for one "32 Holiday Favorites" gift box from Swiss Colony. There will be one winner and the prize will be mailed directly to the winner from Swiss Colony. Open to U.S. residents only. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2014 at 12pm to December 17, 2014 at 12pm.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bake Like an Elf this Holiday Season {Plus a recipe for Happy Elf Punch!}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NorthpoleFun #CollectiveBias


Let me just start off by saying "WOOOOOOOOOO!" I am so thrilled. Do you know why? Do you? The end of November is coming, which means.... CHRISTMAS is almost here! I can hardly contain my excitement! Notice all the "!" this post? That's due to my extreme excitement. My hubby says i'm still a child at heart, and I guess, as you can see from this post, it's completely true.


This holiday season has already been an amazing one! This year Walmart has a TON of awesome new Hallmark products that are perfect for making the Christmas season just a little more special. As we were shopping we spotted the Once Upon a Northpole Christmas book that also came with a Find me, Santa Snowflake (which we had to have!) and the "Bake Like an Elf" baking set that I just knew my daughter would absolutely love! Since she has a great love for all things baking and kitchen related and since I could see her little eyes light up when she saw it, I knew we were going to have to do something special with it!

Soooo... My idea was that we were going to have a "Bake Like an Elf" Baking day to get us in the Christmas spirit!

We'll show you how you can Bake Like an Elf at home, too!

Elf Baking Hat:

The first thing we did was create our Elf Baking hats! Elves love baking, and they love hats... so, really, an Elf Baking Hat is a must!

In order to make your elf baking hat you will need:

  • 1 sheet white cardstock
  • 1 sheet "elf skin" colored paper
  • Christmas tissue paper
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Glue
Step 1: Cut cardstock in half, lengthwise, and trim as needed. Staple pieces together to create your ring "base" (See Step 2 for a picture of the staples) The staples will also create a pocket that you will use when attacking your elf ears!

Step 2: Apply glue to the top 1/2" area all around the inside of the ring. Place tissue paper (pattern facing out!) all along the inside of the ring. You will have to fold the tissue paper over and continue to attach it to create the top of the hat.

Step 3: Fluff your hat and give it proper baking hat shape!

Step 4: Fold "elf skin" paper in half and on one side, draw an elf ear. Cut it out carefully and you should end up with 2 perfectly perfect elf ears! Remember, an elf has pointy ears at the top and rounded ears at the bottom! Use a brown crayon to create the inside lines of the elf ear.

Step 5: Place the elf ear inside of one of the "Pockets" you created with the staples and fold the bottom in to create a little "tab" that you can glue. Now, apply glue to the folded part of the ear and place it back into the pocket.

Step 6: Allow glue to dry and you'll be ready to get baking!




Okay, so, now that you have your baking hat, it's time to grab your supplies! The "Bake Like An Elf" baking kit includes an elf shoe which is really the equivalent to a 1/2 cup measuring cup, an elf mitten which is like a 1/4 of a cup and a little jingle bell spoon that is equal to a teaspoon!

In the same aisle at Walmart they also had a Sprinkle bell which controls the amount of sprinkles that come out at one time (my daughter has a habit of over-sprinkling!) and a Cookie Wonder Wheel that cuts out cute little mittens, shoes and hats! So cute!



The kit even comes with little recipe cards complete with recipe using the elf baking tools! Could it get any cuter? We used the recipe for Grandma Gilly's Winter Magic Sugar Cookies...


I pretty much just stepped back and let my daughter take over this time. She measured everything perfectly and even took the time to scrape off the excess flour from the top of her elf shoe. Such a pro!



After we chilled the dough she used the cookie wheel to cut out the little elf cookies.



The little elf shoe was my favorite! It's upside down in this picture, but you get the idea ;)


The sprinkle bell was pretty awesome, in my opinion! We filled it up with the little round Christmas sprinkles and all you needed to do was flip it over...




And sprinkle! The perfect amount of sprinkles came out for each cookie! No more enormous sprinkle mess! Hooray!



Oh, and before you get to baking you might want to use this little chart I made to figure out what your child's elf name would be! That way you can call them by their proper name as they work in the kitchen!

And, of course, every elf gets extremely tired after a long day of baking and they might even become a little cranky. I will include below a recipe for 'Happy Elf Punch' that will get them right back to their joyful selves!


I hope you have enjoyed learning how you and your family can "Bake Like an Elf" this holiday season and I hope that you, too, can create memories that will last forever!



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Pie and Thanksgiving Prep!


Show me a more food-centered holiday than Thanksgiving and I will give you a nickel! Or a penny... make it a penny. Thanksgiving, to me, is the tastiest holiday and by far one of my favorites. Any holiday that involves spending the entire day filling your house with the most delicious and festive smells one can imagine is alright by me! This year, Thanksgiving is at my Mother-In-Law's house, so I will be making all of my signature dishes and bringing them over to her house... and I am so, so ready... 

Over the years I have completely perfected the most delicious cranberry sauce on the planet, I have an awesome green bean casserole recipe in my arsenal, homemade rolls that are so so fluffy and perfect that they will make you feel all warm and cozy inside, AND I make a Chocolate Pecan Pie that will knock your socks off (which I'm going to be sharing with you in just a minute!) 

Now that my daughter is getting older and really exploring her love of cooking and baking, I want to make sure she has every opportunity to help me make all of my signature dishes that have become part of our holiday traditions. She especially loves tasting all of the ingredients as we go along, especially if there's chocolate involved! Who can blame her? So, this year, I decided it was time to show her how to make Chocolate Pecan Pie and we're going to show you how to make it, too!



For my pecan pie I always use all butter to make my crust! I love the richness it adds to the finished pie! Yummmmm...


Getting ready to make the filling! Something beautiful is about to happen...


When it comes to the holidays, I always go for the best ingredients possible to ensure that everything I make is 100% awesome. I always choose the brands I trust and ones that have always served me well in the past. After all, your recipe is only as good as the ingredients you use! Karo Syrup has always and will always be my go-to for holiday pie making!


My little girl is a most excellent whisker. She was born to whisk!


Empty pie crust + Semi-sweet chocolate chips + pecans = the beginnings of a very delicious pie!


Then, when you pour that deliciously-sweet, beautifully-golden mixture over the top... well, it's beautiful. Truly.




I love how the pecans all rise to the top during baking! It's kind of magical, really... And, of course, to achieve full-flavor and texture, I highly recommend refrigerating overnight! That will give the chocolate chips time to set again and it creates a much nicer eating experience in my opinion! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy lots of time with your loved ones! Even though a lot of the fun comes from the cooking and the preparing of the meal, make sure you are saving time where you can to make the day a much more enjoyable one for yourself! 

Here are a few of my favorite time-saving tips for Thanksgiving: 

  • Use your Fleischmann's yeast to make your bread dough the night before Thanksgiving. That way it will be all ready to go when you wake up in the morning!
  • Cranberry sauce can be made a couple of days in advance and tastes just as good!
  • Plan out your menu and your cooking schedule in advance to make sure you are staying on-track and nothing gets forgotten!



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Chocolate Pecan Pie:

Ingredients:

For the crust:
  • 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/8 cup very cold water (ice water)


For the filling:
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup light Karo Syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted




Directions:

Place flour, salt and sugar into food processor (or into a medium mixing bowl) and pulse (or mix) together. Add in butter and pulse until it becomes coarse and crumbly (or use fingers to mix into flour). Pour in ice water and mix just until the dough begins to clump together.

Remove dough from food processor (or bowl), place on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, wrap and place in fridge for an hour or two, or until dough is firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

When you are ready to start assembling your pie, remove dough from refrigerator, place on lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll out to desired thickness. Move dough over to pie plate, cut edges of dough until even and decorate edge of pie crust as desired.

Pour chocolate chips over pie crust, top with pecan halves and set aside.

Place eggs, Karo Syrup, vanilla, brown sugar and melted butter in a medium mixing bowl and mix well. Pour mixture over nuts and chocolate chips. 

Bake pie for 45-55 minutes, or until the center is set. Make sure to check on your pie as it's baking and add foil to the edges if they start becoming too brown.

Remove pie from oven, allow it to cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.


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You can visit www.karosyrup.com and www.breadworld.com for more recipe inspiration!

Disclosure: I received free products to cook with from the nice people at Karo and Fleischmann's. However, I always use these products in my cooking, and I am happy to share my experience while using them!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Shredded Cilantro Lime Chicken



Sometimes you want to take 4 hours to prepare a gourmet meal, complete with fancy little Hors d'oeuvres and champagne poached quail eggs over smoked ahi tuna (okay so I don't know if that's actually a thing) and sometimes... well, sometimes you just want to throw together a really easy dinner, like burritos or tacos. To be honest, most of the time I choose the latter, especially now that I have an 18-month-old son that constantly keeps me on my toes. The easier the dish is to prepare, the better. That means I will have more time to chase him down and remove the bits of crayon and couch-aged crackers from his slobbery little mouth. 

Yesterday was one of those days where by the end of the night my body felt like it had forgotten how to function properly and everything was set to auto-pilot. No longer was I the same woman I was when I opened my eyes that morning. Throughout the day I had become a shell of my former self, and had repeated the words "No, baby... No, baby..." about thirty dozen times... and that's no exaggeration.  

Today I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day... Now, almost 8 hours later, I feel beaten down and so, so ready for bed! In order to to end this post on a positive note and forget the fact that I am in desperate need of a vacation, I would just like to say... make this chicken, eat it and just enjoy life! It's perfect for burritos, tacos, taco salads or anything else you might be able to dream up! 

Leave me a comment below and let me know what you used it for! :)

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Shredded Cilantro Lime Chicken:

Ingredients:
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat chicken breasts dry and rub with olive oil. If the breasts are super thick you can pound them out until they are all even in thickness. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the chili powder, the salt and the pepper, place on baking sheet (or baking dish) and cover with foil.


Bake chicken breasts for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness. Once juices run clear and meat is no longer pink, remove from the oven and shred. Sprinkle with additional 1 teaspoon chili powder, lime juice and cilantro and mix well.

This chicken is perfect for burritos, tacos, taquitos or even by itself!

Makes about 2-1/2 cups shredded chicken.





Monday, November 17, 2014

Shredded Beef Sandwiches with Crispy Jalapeños and Onion Strings


Manly men deserve manly food, it's a fact. My husband? He's a manly man... so, obviously, he deserves manly food. This shredded beef sandwich is the epitome of a delicious, manly sandwich and even talking about it right now is causing me to drool just a little. 

I love breaking out my slow-cooker when it's cold outside and smelling the delicious smells it fills my house with, so I'm always trying to come up with something new and different to throw in there... That's where this delightful little sandwich recipe came into play. What started out as one of those "I'll throw in a little of this, a dash of that... a couple of tablespoons of this..." recipes, actually became an extremely tasty, comforting, hearty little sandwich! My hubby swears it's his new favorite, and my daughter asked for seconds!

You'll just have to make it yourself, or you will never truly be able to understand it's power.

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet today because it's such a lovely cool day here in California and all I want to do is snuggle up on the couch with a warm blanket and watch Netflix. Now that I've watched all the episodes of Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen they have, I need to find something equally as awesome. Any suggestions??

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Shredded Beef Sandwiches with 
Crispy Jalapeños and Onion Strings:

Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup coke
  • 3-1/2 pound beef chuck roast
  • 2-1/2 cups coleslaw
  • 8 large hamburger buns
  • 6-8 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
For the Jalapeños and Onion Strings:
  • 4 jalapeños, cut into "rings"
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced 
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 eggs
Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic, dijon mustard, brown sugar, beef bouillon, molasses, apple cider vinegar and ketchup. Pour mixture over roast, then slowly pour coke into the slow cooker, around the roast (not over the top!) Place on low and cook for 8 hours, or until beef shreds easily. 

In a dutch oven (or deep fryer) heat oil to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Place onion strings and jalapeño rings into egg, then into flour. Coat well and shake off excess flour before carefully placing them into the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Place on paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Heat a grill pan (or cast iron pan) over medium heat until hot. Open buns and coat the inside with a thin layer of butter and place directly on grill (or in cast iron pan) for 1-2 minutes, or until brown and toasty. 

Just before serving, remove beef from slow cooker and shred.

Place desired amount of coleslaw on bottom bun, top with about 3/4 cup of shredded beef and top with onion strings and jalapeño rings. You can also add mayonnaise, mustard or whatever condiments you choose! Enjoy!

Makes 8 sandwiches.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sweet & Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp


This past weekend the fam and I went to the local Chili cook-off where we got to try some of the most delicious and also some of the spiciest chili I have ever tasted. My insides are still recovering from the amount of heat that was packed into some of those tiny little taster cups. The truth is, though, there was one thing I ate that day that stood out among everything else... and it wasn't chili. It was a bacon-wrapped shrimp that was doused in soy sauce! I can still taste that divine little shrimpy...

If you know me, you know that I like shrimp, but I don't loooove shrimp. Shrimp and I don't have any beef, we pretty much see eye-to-eye and we get along, for the most part... But, after I tasted that little bacon-covered bite of deliciousness, I knew that our relationship was going to change in a big way, and it did... I knew I had to make my own version of those little gems and I had to make them right away.


So, last night I pulled out the big guns and made my very own bacon-wrapped shrimp, but I decided to add a little sweetness, a little garlic and a little something extra to mine to make them even more delicious. It totally worked. What I'm about to share with you might change your life forever... and I hope it does. I hope that you can never go back to your "normal" life... I hope that you will be a changed woman (or man) and that you will look at life through different eyes...


Okay, so I might be getting a little carried away... The shrimp are good, no, scratch that -- they're great -- but maybe, just maybe, not life-altering.


You might just have to make them for yourself and see if anything changes... then get back to me. For research purposes, of course.

These little shrimp would be a fabulous appetizer at one of your holiday parties, and they are great served atop a heaping pile of Sesame noodles! They're packed with flavor and sweetness with a hint of smoke from the bacon. Enjoy!

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Sweet & Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp:
{Print Recipe}
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound medium, raw shrimp, deveined and tails removed (about 36 shrimp)
  • 9 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut bacon slices into 4 equal pieces and wrap each shrimp in one of the quarters, securing with a toothpick. Place on a large baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, vegetable oil, garlic, pepper and sesame oil. Drizzle half of the mixture over the top of the shrimp, brush with a pastry brush to coat and set remaining sauce aside.

Place shrimp in preheated oven and cook for about 10 minutes, brush remaining sauce over the top, return to oven and cook for additional 5-7 minutes, or until bacon is cooked and shrimp are pink.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Turkey Pinwheels aka "Gobble Rolls"

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TasteTheSeason #CollectiveBias




Thanksgiving has always and will always be one of my favorite holidays! It's pretty much just a time when I get to eat all of my favorite foods at one time and spend the whole day in the kitchen, making and smelling delicious food! Ahh yes, the ultimate foodie holiday! It's also the holiday that yields the most leftovers at the end which creates a whole new challenge! If you're like me, you're always looking for new recipes to use up all those leftovers (especially the turkey and cranberry sauce!) You can check out the Cooking Up Good site for some great dinner ideas {and prizes!} and also, just stay tuned to this post for my Turkey Pinwheels, or "Gobble Rolls" recipe!




This week at Walmart as we were shopping we noticed that a lot of our favorite Kraft items were on Rollback... and the Kraft mayo and Stove Top stuffing mix were going to be the perfect ingredients to add to my "Gobble Rolls." 


The truth is, I enjoy the days after Thanksgiving almost as much as I enjoy the actual day. Some of our favorite meals are our leftover meals, like my turkey pot pie and turkey tetrazzini. I like to use those days after as a way to save money during the holidays by simply adding a few inexpensive ingredients to my leftovers and creating something magically delicious! That's where these turkey rolls are going to come in handy. You're simply going to take your leftover turkey and cranberry (I know you will have a ton!) and add some tortillas, Kraft mayonnaise and Stove Top Stuffing.


The beauty of this recipe is that you can't really mess it up... It's all about layering your delicious ingredients, rolling them up in a tortilla and slicing them into adorable little pinwheels. 


There's something extremely satisfying about slicing perfect little pinwheels. Therapeutic, even. I could just slice them all day...


These pretty little bites are the perfect way to use up some of your leftovers from Thanksgiving this year! It's like all the best flavors of thanksgiving wrapped up in one pretty little package! They're a great snack or lunch for kids, adults and, well, anyone...

Plus, they're easy to make and they're a great way to save a little cash this holiday season. They'd be great packed up for school lunches or as a party appetizer. You could eat them with a fox, you could eat them with an ox... Whoops, I got a little carried away there. I'm sure you get the idea! 

Don't forget to pin this recipe for later! Once Thanksgiving comes and goes you're going to need a place to use up those last bits of holiday deliciousness!

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"Gobble Rolls":

Ingredients:
  • 1 box Stove Top Stuffing Mix (we used cornbread, but you can use any flavor you'd like!)
  • 4 "gordita sized" flour tortillas
  • 3-4 cups leftover turkey (or about a pound of thickly-sliced turkey)
  • 3/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup Kraft Mayonnaise


Directions:

Prepare Stove Top as directed on the package, then allow stuffing to come to room temperature. Spread about 1 tablespoon of Kraft mayonnaise onto a tortilla, top with 1/4 of the turkey, spread about 3 tablespoons of cranberry over the turkey and top with about 1/2 cup stuffing. (Obviously, you can adjust amounts to suit your taste, but these are the the ones I used!)

Roll tortillas until you form a "log," wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 30 minutes, or until the log feels firmer. Remove from plastic wrap and slice into 3/4" "pinwheels."

Makes about 24 pinwheels.












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