A Lamborghini Gallardo for Christmas & $100 LivingSocial Deal Bucks for You!

Can you believe it’s December 11 already? That means there’s only 13 days ’til Christmas! If that sends you into a panic, rushing to the mall to fight over parking spaces, please don’t fret and definitely don’t go to the mall.  Thanks to LivingSocial, I have hundreds of unique (and discounted!) gift ideas for you!

DSC_0411To say the last year has been busy for my husband and me would be a vast understatement.  We moved to another state and became homeowners,  adopted two crazy Labradors, I started a new job and last, but certainly not least, we had a baby. Quality time together has become a lot harder to come by so the best gifts we gave each other were experience-based like a weekend in Asheville to celebrate our first anniversary (with William in tow!) DSC_0118

Similarly, for my birthday, Joe gave me two experience gifts.  We shared a  great afternoon over canvases “painting our pets” with HappyMess, an experience I blogged about here.  We now have two Joe and Sally originals hanging in our living room.  Joe also gave me tickets for a Food Tour of Durham with Taste Carolina.  Husbands take note, a food tour is always a good idea when you’re wife is super pregnant.  One of the restaurants on the tour, Pompieri Pizza, is now our favorite pizza place.  You can read more about our food tour experience here.

When LivingSocial reached out to me I jumped at the chance to find a unique experience gift to give Joe this Christmas.  Under the most popular local deals tab I found it!  The Supercar Agility Autocross Experience includes education-based instruction on driving an exotic supercar, 3 laps around the autocross course in a Ferrari 360 Modena or Lamborghini Gallardo and the opportunity to meet fellow supercar enthusiasts.  I’m sure it will be a memorable afternoon and what says “you’re a true North Carolinian now Joe” more than a few laps around a race track? I’ll be tagging along with William so he can take some pictures in the driver’s seat of a Lamborghini.fef95353-235a-44df-90c9-4f5a0e05c857_700_q90

And now for the best part! LivingSocial is giving one lucky reader $100 in LivingSocial Deal Bucks that he or she can use to gift a new experience to someone they care about this year.   The choices are endless and there’s something for everyone on your list, from a limo ride tour of the best holiday lights to cooking lessons to a snowy winter retreat. Most LivingSocial deals can be gifted – just look for the gift icon. Whether you want to give the gift immediately or schedule it for a future date, the printable gift vouchers and digital delivery options make wrapping a cinch. DSC_0435

  If you’re a local reader in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill some great gifts available now on LivingSocial include tickets to a Duke Women’s basketball game, a Trail Ride, Kids’ Pony Ride, or Horseback Riding Lessons at Black Creek Hill Farms or a Brewery Tour of Fortnight Brewing Company.  You can find all these and more here.

Use the Rafflecopter link below to enter or if you don’t want to use Rafflecopter, you can also leave a comment below with which LivingSocial experience you’d pick.  The winner will be chosen randomly on December 17 at 12am EST and will be notified via email.  The winner’s first name will be listed in this post on December 18th. This contest is open to everyone in the U.S. and if you win you must sign up for a LivingSocial account to receive the Deal Bucks (all this requires is an email account.)  The Deal Bucks aren’t transferable to cash and are only good for use at LivingSocial.  Thank you for entering and good luck!

Click here to enter!

The giveaway is now closed and I’m happy to announce that the winner is Seema!

 This post is sponsored by LivingSocial but as usual, all opinions are my own.  Happy Holidays! image-2

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Jalapeño Artichoke Toasts & a Giveaway with La Terra Fina!

Today I’m excited to bring you a giveaway that’s perfect for your holiday entertaining! One lucky reader will win a prize pack of two classic dips and one signature egg white quiche from La Terra Fina, a San Francisco based company that offers a full line of all natural (free of artificial flavors and preservatives,) handcrafted dips, quiches and special holiday baked treats.   You may have seen their dips at Costco and many of the new Greek yogurt dips are also available in specialty grocery stores.  You can search for a store near you here.

Entertaining, especially during the holidays, can be overwhelming and I appreciate a quality shortcut like a pre-made dip that tastes homemade.  I like to have a good spread of appetizers ready when my guests arrive and gather in the kitchen so I can focus on getting dinner on the table.  Enter La Terra Fina and a delicious hot artichoke dip!

DSC_0444  The last time we had dinner guests I served La Terra Fina’s Spinach, Artichoke & Parmesan dip with a vegetable platter and salty multigrain crackers.  It was delicious and easy to heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees without any oil separation. DSC_0550  In addition to the dips, La Terra Fina will send the winner one of their signature quiches.  I’ve tried the Florentine Quiche that’s packed with spinach and artichoke.  The crust is rich and buttery and the egg white custard heats beautifully in the enclosed pie dish.  Like the artichoke dip, this too, tastes homemade.  DSC_0435

I like it with a little Sriracha on top!

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This weekend we’re having my family and my sister’s new fiancé’s parents (follow that?) for dinner.  I’m excited to kick things off with La Terra Fina’s Artichoke & Jalapeño dip using this recipe for Jalapeño Artichoke Bread.

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What to buy:

  • chunky Artichoke & Jalapeño Dip
  • 1 baguette, cut in small slices
  • shredded Parmesan cheese

What to do:

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet and spread evenly with desired amount of dip (about 1 tablespoon every slice)
  • sprinkle top with shredded Parmesan cheese
  • bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown
  • serve warm with freshly ground pepper

And now for the giveaway!

La Terra Fina wants to simplify your holiday entertaining by sending two dips and a quiche to your door.  To enter: simply leave me a comment with your favorite recipe for entertaining, or let me know which La Terra Fina’s product you’d like to try (find a list here.) You can also enter below using the following Rafflecopter link and prompts. The giveaway is only open to U.S residents and one winner will be randomly selected on December 17th.  Thanks for entering and happy entertaining!

 Click here to enter!

The giveaway is now closed and the winner is Lauren! Thanks to everyone who entered1

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This post and giveaway was sponsored by La Terra Fina but all opinions are my own.

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

When I saw this recipe from Food & Wine I knew I had to try it and I was not disappointed! This is my new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes and is as simple as can be.  My picture doesn’t do it justice because you can’t quite see the specks of vanilla bean (just like in real vanilla ice cream.) They’re sweet but not too sweet with a wonderful vanilla flavor, perfect for a holiday meal or in our case, a Thursday night with friends. I made a few changes to the original recipe by adding cinnamon and using half and half in place of cream.

What to buy (serves 5-6)

  • 5 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup half and half (or cream or 2% milk )
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit down the middle with the seeds scraped out
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

What to do:

  • bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until soft
  • allow them to cool a bit, then peel off the skins and transfer the inside to a food processor or blender, pureeing until smooth
  • in a saucepan, combine milk, butter, vanilla bean pod and seeds, salt and cinnamon over medium heat until simmering
  • remove the vanilla bean and add vanilla mixture to pureed sweet potatoes, process again until well mixed
  • transfer to a bowl and serve warm (reheat in oven for a bit if potatoes have cooled too much)

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Three Cheese Baked Spaghetti

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut as a new mom,  relying heavily on my crockpot and simple casseroles to get dinner on the table so I was excited when Tuttorosso invited me to “Celebrate the Sauce!”  The 85-year-old, family-owned and family-run tomato brand (all tomatoes are carefully grown in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) recently launched a new website (www.tuttorossotomatoes.com) with recipes, an inspirational ideas blog and stories from home cooks. The recipe tab is great with beautiful pictures and simple recipes.  DSC_0424

As part of the project I created a recipe of my own for Baked Spaghetti using Tuttorosso products.

You can get in on the fun too; Tuttorosso is also hosting a promotion in December during which they will be giving away 1,000 aprons per week, one heirloom wooden spoon per day and the grand prize, a Martha Stewart Cookware set. You can go here to enter!original

The spaghetti sauce made the kitchen smell wonderful and the baked pasta hit the spot on a chilly December night.  I didn’t add meat as I was making double to take to a vegetarian friend who just had a baby but if you’d like, crumble 1-2 pounds ground beef  in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until fully cooked, with no pink color remaining. Drain the fat from the meat, and then add the ground beef to the stockpot as the sauce simmers.

What to buy (serves 8-10):

  • 28 ounces crushed Tuttorosso tomatoes with basil
  • 28 ounces Tuttorosso tomato sauce
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • in a stockpot, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, onion, pepper, garlic, basil, spices, sugar, and bay leaves
  • bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for thirty minutes
  • cook the pasta according to the package directions
  • cover the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan with sauce
  • add a layer of pasta and then a layer of each cheese; repeat the layers, ending with the sauce
  • bake in the oven for 30 minutes
  • top the casserole with cheese and pop it back in the oven, and continue to cook until the cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes

DSC_0454 DSC_0458 DSC_0465 DSC_0478 DSC_0483Here are some of my favorites recipe ideas (click the picture for recipe) from the new Tuttorosso website:

 Chicken Basil Risottot_chknbasilrisottoFontina Macaroni and Cheese

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Manicotti Florentine

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Grilled Chicken Skewerst_grilledchknskwrs

Peach Chicken Chipotle Salad

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Chunky Tomato Soup

t_chnkytomatosoupThanks to Tuttorosso for sponsoring this post and for the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce used in my recipe.  Happy cooking!

Last November’s Thirty Recipes for Thanksgiving!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?! It has completely snuck up on me so in lieu of new Thanksgiving recipes, I’m re-publishing these recipes from last November’s Thirty for Thanksgiving project.  Hopefully there are some recipes you want to make for your friends and family this Thanksgiving!  Triple Chocolate Mocha Pudding with Pumpkin Spiked Whipped Cream was definitely the dessert favorite at our table last year.

PicMonkey Collage Happy early Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and if you’re the one wearing a chefs apron, I wish you happy cooking and delicious dishes.  I’m thankful you’re here and thankful to have this space to share my recipes with you.

And now, separated into side dishes, desserts, salads and the all-encompassing “other,”  here are the thirty recipes I made last year that were inspired by the Food Network Magazine’s November edition: Thirty for Thanksgiving!

Side dishes:

Kale Casserole ,Green Beans with Cranberries and Blue Cheese Chipotle Cheddar Corn Casserole ,Lemon-Garlic Roasted Brussels SproutsCreamed SpinachBourbon Sweet Potato Mash Roasted Rosemary Cauliflower with Red Grapes Spicy Broccoli and Ancho Chiles Vidalia Onion Gratin {Baked Bloomin’ Onions}Brussels Sprouts Slaw Southwestern Rainbow Carrots Turnips and BroccoliSweet and Sour Brussels with BaconBrussels Sprouts Gratin Roasted Carrots with Spiced YogurtSausage-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower Mash with Roasted Garlic 

Desserts: 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with a Double-Chocolate CrustTriple Chocolate Mocha Pudding Triple Fruit{Strawberry, Cranberry and Pear}Crisp Coconut Pumpkin Pie with a Gingersnap Crust Chocolate Tart with a Bourbon GlazePumpkin Spiked Whipped CreamFrozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Snickers Pie

Salads: 

Apple, Cranberry and Blue Cheese Salad with a Cider VinaigrettePear Spinach Salad with Warm Spicy Vinaigrette

Other: 

Turkey TendersCranberry KetchupCranberry-Orange Sauce Shrimp and Corn Chowder {in your Crockpot}

My Favorite Way to Cook Bacon

I tried all kinds of methods for cooking bacon before I settled on this easy way that leaves you with perfectly crispy bacon every time. All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with 2 layers of aluminum foil  (one layer won’t protect your pan from grease.) Next, place a metal cooling rack over the foiled baking sheet and evenly space your raw bacon on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how thick your bacon is, and then transfer with a fork or tongs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain off any remaining grease and finish crisping.bacon

The cooling rack allows the bacon to cook from all sides so there is no need to flip it and the grease will drip down onto the cookie sheet, allowing the bacon to become extra-crispy. It’s so easy and there’s no need to flip the bacon or worry about hot grease splatters.

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Another bacon hack that I love is to save the bacon grease by letting it cool slightly, then carefully pouring it into a container and refrigerating. See below for a list of recipes that call for bacon grease, I like to use it to cook scrambled eggs! If you don’t want to save the bacon grease, simply let it solidify on the baking sheet, then crumple the foil around it and throw it away.

Great ways to use your saved bacon grease:

15 Ways to Use Bacon Fat via Bon Appetit
28 Delicious Ways To Use Leftover Bacon Fat via Buzzfeed
The Top 10 Revelatory Uses for Leftover Bacon Grease via Martha Stewart
8 Practical Ways to Use Bacon Grease via The Secret Yumiverse

10 Soups to Make this Fall

Here are ten of my most popular soup recipes, all simple and delicious. Happy fall and happy soup cooking! soupSpicy Buffalo Chicken Soup {in your Crockpot}

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Beef and Dark Beer Chilidsc_0173

Chicken, Greens and Rice Noodle Soup

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Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup {in your Crockpot}

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup {in your Crockpot}

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Loaded Baked Potato Soup {in your Crockpot}dsc_0534

Spicy Chipotle Corn Chowder {in your Crockpot}

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Shrimp and Corn Chowder {in your Crockpot}

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Chicken and Dumplings {in your Crockpot} and Homemade Cream of Chicken Soupdsc_0418-1

Broccoli Cheddar Soup {in your Crockpot}

DSC_0145 This is a delicious, simple soup that is full of broccoli and sharp cheddar cheese.  I decided to puree the soup with my immersion blender before I added the cheese but you could skip this step if you like a chunkier soup.  I added some splashes of sriracha and red pepper flakes for a little heat and diced bacon because bacon makes everything better.

What to buy (serves 4-5):

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5-6 cups broccoli florets, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (or more to taste)
  • optional garnish: sriracha, raw broccoli florets, diced bacon

What to do:

  • melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat
  • add onions and saute until softened about 2-3 minutes
  • add garlic, flour and salt and pepper, stirring for another 2-3 minutes
  • whisk in heavy cream until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken
  • pour into crockpot and add chicken broth, diced broccoli and red pepper flakes
  • cover and cook on high heat for 2 to 3 hours or low heat for 5 to 6 hours
  • using an immersion blender (if you want a smoother texture,) puree soup until you reach your desired texture
  • turn to warm and stir in cheddar cheese, stirring to blend
  • season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm with optional garnishes

Boeuf Bourguignon {in your Crockpot}

Boeuf Bourguignon is a classic French dish, popularized by the one and only Ms. Julia Child and guaranteed to fill your kitchen with the rich, savory aroma of onions cooking with beef and red wine.  The most important parts of this recipe are the bacon (and the rendered bacon fat) and the red wine.  Both give the dish layers of flavor that set it apart from beef stew.  I like to make Boeuf Bourguignon in my slow cooker but it does require a few steps before I’m able to “set it and forget it.” Last night I served the tender beef and vegetables over my cauliflower mash for a warm, comforting and delicious fall dinner.  DSC_0122

What to buy (serves 5-6):

  • 6-7 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cups red wine, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste

What to do:

  • heat a large pan over medium-high heat
  • add bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is beginning to crisp
  • remove bacon from pan and set aside
  • pat beef with a paper towel to dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • return pan to medium-high heat and add onions and garlic to the pan, cooking with 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less to taste) until the onions are soft and caramel colored
  • add carrots and celery to onions, cooking for another 3-4 minutes until softened
  • a single layer of beef cubes to the pan to sear in the remaining bacon grease, flipping after 2-3 minutes to sear the other side
  • add seared meat to crockpot and deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of the wine
  • pour the dark glaze that forms and any remaining meat from the bottom of the pan into the crockpot
  • add tomato paste, bay leaf, broth and remaining wine to crockpot
  • add vegetables to crockpot and stir to combine
  • cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until beef is so tender it falls apart easily
  • serve with crusty bread, over egg noodles or over mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies

DSC_0448Happy Halloween!!

Soon we’re heading out to trick or treat in the neighborhood with my cousins and their three year old pirate.  William is going to be snug in the stroller in his koala bear costume.  In addition to it being my first Halloween as a mom, this is also the first year I’ve lived somewhere that kids trick or treat!  I’m stocked with candy and ready for the cuteness and Frozen overload.

We haven’t carved our pumpkin yet but I did make these pumpkin cookies yesterday.  They’re not cakey but are soft and loaded with plenty of white chocolate and semi-sweet chips.

What to buy:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the miniature kind)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

What to do:

  • whisk the melted butter, sugars, pumpkin and vanilla until smooth
  •  in another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together to form a soft dough
  • fold in  semi-sweet chocolate and white chips
  • chill dough for 30 minutes or a few hours
  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or spray
  • roll the dough into balls, about 2 tablespoons of dough for each
  • bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, they’ll look a little under baked but you want this so they don’t get too dry and cakey
  • cool cookies for 10-15 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack