Friday, December 3, 2010

McCormick Cookie Swap Giveaway & Recipe

ChocolateGingerCookiesFinal

(This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all of you who commented.)

McCormick, who make many of the spices and extracts that you find on your grocery store shelves, are getting into the holiday spirit with a virtual cookie swap. Simply "like" their Facebook page and then start baking. Share your recipes and photos and find inspiration in all of the cookie recipes posted by others. What better way to kick off the holiday baking season?

In addition to the cookie swap, McCormick is teaming up with baker and cookbook author, Lauren Chattman (see the giveaway information below to win her book and other great prizes). On Monday, December 6th at 8:00 pm EST/7:00 pm CST, Chattman will be conducting live cookie demonstration. She will provide invaluable baking tips that will help you put out batch after batch of holiday cookies. Plus, she will choose one recipe from McCormick's Facebook fans to feature and demonstrate. That means one of you!

Be sure to check out the Double Chocolate Ginger & Hazelnut Cookies I made with McCormick spices.

Here's all you have to do:

1. Like the McCormick Spice Facebook page page and connect with a community of fellow flavor fanatics.

2. Swap recipes on the wall as part of the McCormick Virtual Cookie Swap. Share your cookie ideas, draw inspiration from others, post photos and try something new in the kitchen.

3. Watch the live Webcast hosted by Lauren Chattman on December 6, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST. She’ll offer her “trade” secrets for a successful swap, demonstrate tasty new recipes and highlight one lucky fan’s cookie from those posted to Facebook as part of the McCormick Virtual Cookie Swap.

Plus, McCormick has been kind enough to provide a special gift package for one of you.

The gift package includes:

* A special holiday selection of McCormick extracts and spices
* Martha Stewart collection holiday cookie cutters
* Crate & Barrel mini spatulas
* Red mixing bowl
* Cookie Swap! book by Lauren Chattman



For a chance to win the gift package:

Leave a comment, telling me about your favorite holiday cookie recipe.

For additional chances to win:

1) "Like" McCormick Spice on Facebook. Leave a comment here to let me know you did so.

2) Follow me on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway, using this message, "Enter to win a McCormick cookie swap gift package on @cookincanuck's site. http://bit.ly/e76vid" Then, come back and leave a comment to let me know you did so.

3) "Like" Cookin' Canuck on Facebook. Leave a comment here to let me know you did so.

4) Subscribe to Cookin' Canuck's RSS feed or subscribe via email (left sidebar under Recipe Index). Leave a comment here to let me know you did so.

Please, no duplicate comments.

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The deadline for this giveaway is Friday, December 10th at 5pm PST.

Good luck and happy baking!

Disclaimer: This giveaway is being provided by McCormick spices. I am not being compensated for this review and believe in the quality of the McCormick products.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Memories & Tips, Plus a Giveaway

This is a sponsored post from BlogHer and Welch's.



Welch's1

Growing up in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving near the beginning of October. Unlike the American version, Canadian Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the arrival of the Pilgrims to the new world. Rather, it is a celebration of a successful harvest. Since Canada is further north than the United States, harvest season takes place at an earlier time, which explains the timing of the holiday. Since moving to the United States 15 years ago, I have come to appreciate the timing of American Thanksgiving. Landing mere weeks before Christmas, Thanksgiving is the window into the joy, chaos and merriment of the holiday season. With a full day of cooking and eating and three days of quiet family time, Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays.

Welch's2

For us, as for many families, Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for the big and little gifts in our lives and a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. However, you are reading the words of a food blogger, which means that this holiday also has to be about the food. And a little more food. Oh, and a little more. Preparations start well before feast day - ideas for menus, table settings, and decorations swirl in my head for weeks. Over the years, there have been very successful feasts and some that are, well, less than ideal. However, at the end of the day, when leftovers are wrapped up and guests are sitting in front of the football games in their tryptophan trances, all that really matters is that we did it together.

That being said, there are a few tips and tricks that I have learned over the years to make Thanksgiving day go as smoothly as possible.

Make ahead:
If you leave all of the cooking until Thanksgiving Thursday, you will spend a very long day in the kitchen and emerge with aching feet and a feast that you are too tired to eat. Prepare as many dishes as you can the day before, such as cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, and even the turkey. Gasp! Yes, the turkey. Years ago, we learned that making the turkey the day ahead for both Thanksgiving and Christmas makes the holiday far less stressful. When the turkey is doused in hot gravy, your guests will never know the difference.

Set the table:
Arrange the table the day before. Put on the tablecloth, lay out the napkins, set out the silverware and glassware, and arrange the centerpiece. Collect all of the serving dishes and utensils you will need so that you are not scrambling at the last minute.

Delegate:
There is no need to be the hero in the kitchen. When your guests ask if there is anything you can bring or if they can help in the kitchen, say "Yes"! Not only does it give your guests warm, fuzzy feelings about contributing to the meal, but also it will take a lot of pressure off of you. Besides, the party always ends up in the kitchen anyways. You might as well put all of those party-goers to work.

Consider rentals:
Most rental places have very reasonable rates for two-day rentals of plates, silverware, and glasses. We have not done this often but, let me tell you, there is nothing better than piling most of the dirty dishes in big containers and sending them back to the rental company to deal with.

Our feast this year will include all of the traditional favorite dishes, along with one of Welch's holiday drink recipes. The choices are all appealing - Holiday Toasting Cup, Sparkling Holiday Punch, Spiced Grape Punch, Sparkling Cranberry Spritzer, and Sparkling Cranberry Punch - and I will likely try all of them over the holiday season, but it will be the Sparkling Holiday Punch that graces our Thanksgiving table this year.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"Which Welch's holiday drink recipe would you like to try?"

Please, no duplicate comments.

For a second entry, you can:

Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

For Official Rules click here.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page for 11 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Sweepstakes ends 5pm EST on December 31, 2010.

For more information on Welch's, head to their official site.

Welch's Sparkling Juice cocktails are the perfect choice for happy family celebrations
* Non-alcoholic, so they’re perfect for the entire family.
* Deliciously refreshing with a light, bubbly sensation.
* Upscale package perfect for special celebrations.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ghirardelli Chocolate Recipes & A Giveaway

This is a sponsored review by BlogHer and Ghirardelli.



Ghirardelli2

With the holidays just around the corner, visions of sugarplums begin to dance through our heads. Once the sugarplums have been swept aside, peppermint bark and creamy caramel sidle in. Do not miss out on Ghirardelli's versions of these two treats. While all of the traditional treats are highly coveted in our home, there are two non-traditional ones that take top honors - chocolate mousse and chocolate meringue peppermint cookies.

This version of chocolate mousse comes from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, which is packed with recipes highlighting the San Franciscan chocolate company's confections. This creamy, decadent mousse comes together very quickly and works beautifully as a make-ahead dessert.

The meringue recipe is inspired by my grandmother, who used to make meringues by the hundred year-round. Ghirardelli chocolate is gently folded into the meringue and each cookie is topped with crushed candy cane pieces. If you are not going to eat dozens of meringue cookies within a few days (we have been known to do so - many times), they freeze very well. Just put them in an airtight container and slip the container into the freezer. To defrost, leave the cookies at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse:

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/4 cup hot brewed coffee

In a large bowl, whip heavy cream on medium-high speed to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Place bittersweet chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.

Ghirardelli1

While the chocolate is melting, whip the eggs in a large bowl at medium-high speed until the eggs are very fluffy and thick, about 10 minutes.

Now, prepare to be work quickly. Stir coffee into melted chocolate chips. The mixture will start to thicken. Quickly stir in the beaten eggs, and then fold in the whipped cream. Spoon the mixture into glasses or bowls.

Chill until firm, about 2 hours. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired, and serve.

Serves 8 to 10.

Chocolate Meringue & Peppermint Cookies

3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
4 large egg whites
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup finely chopped Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate
2 candy canes, finely crushed

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Place one rack in the upper-middle and one in the lower-middle position of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer on medium-low setting, whip the mixture until foamy, about 1 minute. While continuing to whip, gradually add the sugar mixture. Continue to whip the whites until they hold stiff peaks, 4 to 5 minutes.

Ghirardelli3

This may take less or more time depending on the humidity. Make sure that stiff peaks do form, but do not overwhip or they will become dry. Gently fold in chocolate.

Ghirardelli4

Using a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, form meringues on the prepared baking sheets. They should have a little peak and should each be about 1 1/4-inches wide. Sprinkle crushed candy cane pieces on the top of each cookie.

Ghirardelli5

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 1 hour, switching the placement of the baking sheets and from front to back halfway through baking. Turn off the oven and let the meringues rest in the oven until cooled, about 1 hour (more time may be necessary in humid weather). Remove the meringues from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 4 dozen small meringue cookies.

Ghirardelli6

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What are your favorite chocolate holiday desserts or treats?"

Rules:
No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post.

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post.

d) Follow this link and provide your email address and your response to the sweepstakes prompt.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page for 9 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Please see the BlogHer.com Ghirardelli official rules for this giveaway.

The giveaway runs from 11/15 - 12/15/2010.

Head to the Ghirardelli site for more information on their products.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

NFL Game Day Preparations, Plus NFL contests

This is a sponsored post by BlogHer and P&G.



NFL1

"Hey, Jack - it's a fact. Game's back in town...I've been waiting all day for Sunday night." That is the first thing I hear when my boys spring out of bed on Sunday morning...and then at least a dozen times throughout the rest of the day. I have never seen my boys (and I am including my husband in this) move so fast as when they hear the opening line of Faith Hill's Sunday Night Football opener. Whether it is the song itself, the promise of a football game, or the little black dress worn by the sultry songstress, they are there in a flash, ready for a knock-down, bone-crunching game of football.

Now, you may wonder what a Canadian wife and mother does while her American boys are watching football on Sunday. Do I slink off to read a book? Do I look for updates of my beloved NHL team online? Nope, I have come to appreciate the game of football during the 15 years I have lived in the United States and can talk West Coast offense, quarterback sacks, and zone defense with the best of them.

NFL2

Living in Utah, there is not a hometown NFL team to root for, but that does not stop us from having our favorites. My husband has been a Denver Broncos fan for years and so we are all fans by default. My 9-year old, however, pledges his devotion to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, which pleases to me to no end because I see both Manning brothers as well-spoken, classy, hard-working role models for any sports-loving kid. Which leads to my favorite team - the Indianapolis Colts. I have never actually been to Indianapolis, but hold a soft spot for this team, primarily due to the work ethic of Peyton Manning. That leaves my 6-year old son, who is an easy sell right now. At the beginning of the game he asks, "Who are we cheering for?", watches and cheers for a few plays, then heads off to play with his Lego toys.

During time-outs, the boys run outside for a few minutes of punting practice and Hail Mary passes. Once the game is back on, they run back inside to watch the next part of the game. They particularly like to call the penalties before the referees have a chance to announce their decisions. "Holding. Number 91. Defense. 15 yard penalty. Automatic first down." - complete with hand gestures.

As much as game day is about the games themselves, it simply would not be the same without the snacks. Chips and salsa, sweet and spicy chicken wings, mini quiches, beer (for the big "kids"), and root beer (for the little kids). If game day just involves the four of us, a couple of snacks will do. If we are watching a game with friends, we pull out the food stops. Along with the standard finger foods, we turn on the crockpot for a hefty meal of shredded pork tacos or chili.

Sticky & Sweet Chicken Wings Recipe with Soy, Honey & Ginger

Whether it is the food, the touchdown passes, or Faith Hill that attracts you, Sunday afternoon and evening football are the perfect excuses to gather with family and friends.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page to read 19 other bloggers' game day stories.

1. Here’s a great opportunity to get some great prizes from one of the NFL’s sponsors, Procter & Gamble. Check out their “Take it to the House” program and photo contest, where prizes include a $10,000 community donation to support NFL PLAY 60 and an at-home visit from a local NFL legend! One lucky Grand Prize Winner will even win a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Show us how you and your football family bring NFL game day to life at home at www.facebook.com/TakeItToTheHouse (click on the contest tab)!

Take it to the House

Promote Your Page Too

2. Facebook contest info:
This football season, YOU have a chance to win some amazing prizes! In football speak, “Taking it to the House” means scoring a long touchdown, but this season, Procter & Gamble, one of NFL’s sponsors, wants to help you take it to the house as part of their Facebook photo contest. Prizes include an at-home visit from a local team legend, a $10,000 community donation in support of NFL PLAY 60 and P&G products.

Show P&G how you bring NFL game day to life at home with your football family for an opportunity to meet an NFL legend, win awesome P&G products and get a $10,000 donation for a children’s health and wellness organization in your community in support of NFL PLAY 60. One lucky Grand Prize Winner will even win a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl in Hawaii!

It’s easy, moms! Just submit a photo of your “football family” on NFL game day. For more information on “Take it to the House” and to enter the photo contest, visit www.facebook.com/TakeItToTheHouse and click the contest tab.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Family & Holiday Traditions

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Folgers.




Christmas is a time when I feel like I am walking on a cloud filled with holiday snow. I love everything about it (well, okay, I could do without the holiday shopping crowds) - the carols, the snow, the treats. Most of all, I revel in the anticipation of spending time with family. Not just a quick weekend visit, but heavy-duty holiday bonding time. Since we don't live in the same state (or country, for that matter) as our families, these extended visits are our opportunity to make up for lost time, to soak in the laughter and find peace in being in each other's company.

When I was a kid, part of the excitement of Christmas lay in the anticipation of the "big day". Each year, my mum bought me an advent calendar and the first thing I would do every morning, from December first through Christmas Eve, was to open the little numbered cardboard door hidden amongst the glitter-filled Christmas scene. Behind that door lay a picture, usually an old-fashioned drawing of a Christmas trinket or activity. Toy soldiers, snowmen, white bunnies, carolers, ice-skaters...each was enchanting in its own way.


To this day, even with my fortieth birthday right around the corner, my mum still sends me an advent calendar each year, along with calendars for my husband and two boys. Each morning, we crowd around our calendars and take turns opening those little doors and exclaiming over the treasure underneath. It is a touchstone moment, one in which we can rejoice in the excitement of the season and, most of all, the promise of spending time with loved ones.

Holidays and traditions mean different things to different people. Please leave a comment and tell me what your favorite holiday traditions is.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page to read the holiday stories by 9 other bloggers.

Head to the Folgers site to enter their essay contest.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Holiday Morning Traditions & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.



Amazing Cinnamon Rolls

It is safe to say we are traditionalists - to the extreme. Each year, Christmas morning proceeds in the same manner, without a single deviation to the routine. After breakfast, which always includes cinnamon rolls drizzled in a maple glaze, we move onto stockings, presents, and one very unusual family tradition, which I will tell you about a little later.

My husband and I are lucky to have families that actually like each other. Every since we married, 11 years ago, we have spent Christmas altogether. That's right - my family, his family, altogether. Since we all live in different cities (or countries, for that matter), we rotate between three cities - Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Victoria, Canada. It is fun, it is joyful, and it teaches our two boys to really appreciate the best part of Christmas - family and friends. We realize how lucky we are and we treasure each year that we are able to continue the tradition.

During the second Christmas that we spent together, the two grandmothers (my mum and my husband's mum) disappeared into the guest room for about 15 minutes. There was plenty of giggling from behind the closed door and we were instructed to have our cameras at the ready. Finally, the door opened to the sound of jingle bells ringing and out came the two cutest reindeer you ever will see, shaking their little red tails at us. Dressed in matching white fleece jumpsuits, antlers, and red noses, the grandmothers were the spitting images of that famous red-nosed reindeer. The performance was such a hit that it was declared an instant tradition. Now the kids are in on the act and, occasionally, an unsuspecting dog or two.

Kelloggs12-1

Since that first reindeer Christmas, the reindeer costume has gone through several changes. One year, we were surprised with cheerleading reindeer, another year the theme was "Christmas hits Hawaii" and included bikini tops (over the fleece jumpsuits), leis, and a rousing rendition of the hula. We always look forward to the next incarnation of Rudolph-in-drag.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What is one of the holiday traditions that your family participates in (can be Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.)?"

Please, no duplicate comments.

For a second entry, you can:

Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Sweepstakes ends 5pm EST on November 1, 2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Dress-Up & A Giveaway

This is a compensated review by BlogHer and Pop-Tarts.


Pop-Tarts2-1

A couple of years ago, I decided to re-embrace my childhood. Halloween had become about the kids, as it should be - finding the perfect costumes, hosting Halloween parties, carving pumpkins, and toasting pumpkin seeds. I decided it would be even more fun for them if my husband and I surprised them on Halloween night with costumes of our own. Yes, it was a completely selfless act, done purely for the kids' entertainment. Right.

My boys were practicing their light saber skills in the family room, decked out in their Obi-Wan and Anakin costumes, when my husband and I appeared as Darth Vader and Queen Amidala. Yes indeed, we were ready for any Star Wars convention that might come to town. My parents were in town for the holiday and decided to get into the act in their clown and Mrs. Doubtfire costumes.

Pop-Tarts2-2

This year, the kids are turning to the dark side of Halloween. They decided it might be fun to be the ones doing the scaring, rather than the other way around. My youngest will be a ninja and my older son is going for the classic Dracula look. My husband and I are still deciding on our costumes, but Herman Munster and Elvira come to mind. I'm going to have to plaster the lot of us with reflectors and flashing lights so we can find each other on Halloween.

Whatever costumes we decide to wear, we will be certain to have plenty of treats on hand. Caramel apples and popcorn will adorn the table, alongside the mini chocolate bars and my kids' new favorite treat, Pop-Tarts® Choc-o-Lantern Chocolate Fudge toaster pastries. For their own health and welfare, I will have to take some of that candy of their hands and eat it myself. That is what dedicated parenting is all about - taking one for the team.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"How will you and your kids be dressing up on Halloween?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page for 9 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 10/18 - 10/31/2010.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Click here for more information on Pop-Tarts.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bowl of Goodness & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.


Mediterranean Chicken, Bean & Pasta Soup Recipe

When the snow starts to fall, I yearn to fold myself into a blanket and wrap my hands around a hot bowl of soup. This is the time of year when I pull out the stockpot and start to make batch upon batch of soups and chilies. We have a large standing freezer in our garage and, each year, we fill it with family-sized portions of these comforting dishes to see us through the cold winter months. Broth-based soups tend to freeze the best, but that does not stop us from making fresh batches of chicken and corn chowder or creamy roasted mushroom soup.

Not only are most soups healthy and hearty, but they are relatively quick and easy to make. For broth soups, the formula is an easy one. Saute aromatics, such as onions, garlic, and shallots, in some olive oil. Add the protein (e.g., chicken) and other vegetables until almost cooked through. Then, pour in the broth and fresh herbs, and simmer until the flavors are blended, about 30 minutes. If you are adding pasta to the soup, do so in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking so that the noodles do not become overcooked and limp. It is easy to double, or even triple, soup recipes. Make extra portions so you can freeze and store them for easy, quick meals.

If you are looking for a quick breakfast meal, consider pulling that bowl out of the cupboard and filling it with high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal and cereal. Nothing can be easier or more satisfying in the morning than a bowlful of your favorite cereal, topped with fresh fruit and milk. Our personal favorites are Raisin Bran and Smart Start because they are high in fiber and nutrients, and low in sugar compared to many other cereals found on the supermarket shelves.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What is your favorite meal in a bowl?"

Please, no duplicate comments.

For a second entry, you can:

Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Sweepstakes ends 5pm EST on September 25, 2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pop-Tarts Halloween Sour Cream Coffee Cake & A Giveaway

This is a compensated review by BlogHer and Pop-Tarts.



Pop-TartsHalloween1-1

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. When I was a kid, the excitement started with dreaming up a costume. It is the one time of year when you can turn into anything you want to be. The sweetest girl can dress up as an ugly, cackling witch or her favorite Disney princess. Little boys can turn into their sports heroes. Anything goes. And then comes the treats...oh, the treats! While I coveted the little candy bars that filled my plastic pumpkin, what I really looked forward to were homemade popcorn balls and caramel apples.

When the box of Pop-Tarts Limited Edition flavor, Choc-o-Lantern arrived on my doorstep, I started to think about what new Halloween treat I could make with them. My boys and I brainstormed some ideas, and finally came up with a Pop-Tarts coffee cake. My kids simply cannot let any good piece of cake go to waste. They enjoy everything about them - the moist texture, the icing, and the surprise layer of flavor inside. We decided to make a Bundt cake, drizzled with an orange glaze, in the hopes of making it look like the top of a pumpkin. The Pop-Tarts became the surprise filling and provided a welcome hit of chocolate amidst the tender coffee cake.

Pop-TartsHalloween1-2

What the kids think? Well, I got two big thumb-ups and they requested that we make the cake every year at Halloween.

Pop-Tarts Halloween Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Basic coffee cake recipe adapted from Cooking Light

3 Choc-o-Lantern (Frosted Chocolate Fudge) Pop-Tarts

Cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (4 oz.) block-style cream cheese
2 large egg white
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Orange gel icing color or food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray.

Cake:
Roughly chop the Pop-Tarts and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat granulated sugar, softened butter, and cream cheese at medium until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add egg whites and whole egg, one a time, mixing after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer set to low, spoon in the flour mixture and sour cream, alternating, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix in pure vanilla extract.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Sprinkle the chopped Pop-Tarts evenly over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the Pop-Tarts and spread evenly to cover the Pop-Tarts.

Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, sitting on a wire rack. Invert the pan onto the wire rack and cool cake completely.

Glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Add orange food coloring or gel icing color.

Place cake on serving platter and evenly pour the glaze over the cake. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve.

Serves 16.

Printable recipe

Pop-TartsHalloween1-3

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card from BlogHer, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What treats do you and your kids like to make for Halloween?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page for 9 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 10/18 - 10/31/2010.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Click here for more information on Pop-Tarts.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Go-To Breakfast & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.


Hearty (Whole Wheat) Blueberry Pancakes

For several years, we bought pre-made waffles at our local warehouse store as a breakfast treat for our kids. The kids enjoyed them so much that they became a regular breakfast item served during the week. In the back of my mind, I knew that these waffles were providing very little nutritional value for my boys, but I was in a lazy mode and told myself that it was okay because I served them healthy meals throughout the rest of the day. When I finally sat down to read the nutritional content, I was less than happy about the amount of sodium in each waffle, plus the fact that the first ingredient listed is “enriched flour” (i.e., all the goodness is taken out in processing and then a little bit is put back in). I researched frozen whole-wheat waffles, but soon realized that the price over the long term would be prohibitive.

Last year, we invested in a waffle maker. It is nothing fancy, but can spit out a batch of waffles like nobody’s business. We also pulled our pancake grill out of the basement and dusted it off. We tried several whole-wheat waffle and pancake recipes and soon found ones that have both great taste and texture. These basic recipes took on lives of their own and are morphed into many different versions, depending on the whim of the cook. We rotate between a variety of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves – and frozen fruits – blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.

No matter what form the waffles and pancakes take on, the whole family enjoys them. We typically make double, or even triple, batches and freeze the extras. On a busy weeknight morning, we pop them in the toaster oven for a quick, healthy meal. We pile on fresh fruit and just a touch of syrup. Not only do our boys enjoy every bite, but we feel confident knowing they are starting the day with a meal that is high in fiber and vitamins.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What is your go-to breakfast item, the one thing your family will always eat?"

Please, no duplicate comments.

For a second entry, you can:

Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Sweepstakes ends 5pm EST on October 18, 2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Incredible Egg Tour & A Giveaway

EggTrip1

(Congratulations to Donna - comment #19 - for winning the giveaway!)

Flimsy jumpsuits, hair nets, and booties are not really my thing. Well, that is if you discount those unfortunate days of high school dances in the 80s when DEVO fans liked to “whip it” all over the dance floor. However, I was happy to don the requisite garb last week as I traipsed through the hen houses at the Willamette Egg Farm in Oregon with a group of fellow food bloggers.

Unless you live in a cave on a remote mountaintop, you are aware that the egg industry has taken some heat over the past several months. Fear of salmonella poisoning resulted in one of the country’s largest egg recalls and prompted many families to dump cartons of eggs into the garbage. Fear of this type of poisoning is not unwarranted but, unfortunately, the media often takes a rather one-sided view in this type of situation.

When I was invited by the American Egg Board to learn about the process of bringing eggs to the table, from raising chicks to packaging eggs, I was intrigued. Here was an opportunity to witness sanitation conditions first hand and ask questions that are on many people’s minds.

Now, this trip was not all about chicken and eggs. We were treated to a tour of the vineyards at Domaine Margelle, owned and run by our gracious hosts, Steve and Marci Taylor. Dinner was cooked and served in the chateau by a local chef from Silverton, Oregon.

EggTrip2

EggTrip3

The next morning, wining and dining behind us, we got straight down to business. The bus drove us to the buildings owned by the Satrum family, who founded Willamette Egg Farms in 1934. They currently have approximately 2 million chickens and the operation, spread across a few locations, produces 1.6 million eggs per day. Now those are some prolific chickens.

EggTrip4

The first building we visited housed the cage-free chickens in a large open space, outfitted with a variety of floor, roosting, and nesting areas. In addition, there were doorways to the outside pen through which the most adventurous chickens wandered for a change of scene.

EggTrip5

Clearly fascinated by us, the chickens perched on our feet, pecking at our pant legs and investigating our cameras with their bright eyes and curious beaks. And what a noisy lot they were. One rather bold bird flew up and landed on Jennifer’s (see blogger list below) shoulder, from which she earned the name “Triple C” for her calm, cool, and collected demeanor throughout the experience.

EggTrip6

In addition to the cage-free areas, we observed two other housing systems – aviary and conventional. In the aviary system, the birds are in cages for four hours in the morning, when they lay their eggs. The distinct advantage to this system is that the eggs are laid on a litter (manure)-free surface, which is in contrast to the eggs laid in a cage-free system. After the productive morning hours are over, the chickens have the chance to roam out of the cages.

The conventional system is a much more confined environment for the chickens. Six to eight chickens are housed in each cage. While the chickens are at a disadvantage in terms of roaming space, it was evident that this system is very sanitary. The air in these houses was much clearer than that in the cage-free areas.

EggTrip7

When I asked Greg Satrum which housing system he prefers, putting all economic considerations aside, he referenced a system recently put into place in the European Union. It is a caged system that allows for roosting areas and increased square footage for each chicken. While this system is not yet approved for the United States, Greg hopes that it will become the standard in several years, assuming the necessary studies prove that it is in fact a viable system.

We spent the afternoon with Howard Helmer, the world’s fastest omelet maker (making an astonishing 427 omelets in 30 minutes gives him this title) and chef Jeffrey Saad, host of The Cooking Channel’s upcoming show, United Tastes of America (debuts November 16th) and runner-up on The Next Food Network Star.

EggTrip9

Both men are enthusiastic and passionate about eggs and teaching others to cook them properly. Moving between our cooking stations, they offered tips, humor, and patience as we worked to improve our omelet-making, poaching, and scrambling skills.

EggTrip8

Mary Donkersloot, RD, Los Angeles-based nutritionist, offered some interesting nutritional facts about eggs. Eggs, which store half of their protein in the yolk, offer heme protein, which is easier for the body to absorb than the iron found in spinach. They are also high in lutein, selenium, zinc, and zeaxanthin, which are key ingredients in preventing macular degeneration.

While I came away with some newly found egg preparation skills and many new friendships, the most important take-home message was regarding egg farming. Like any other section of the food industry, there are many egg farmers who are diligent about following the necessary sanitation and safety practices to insure the quality and safety of their product. These farmers should not be vilified because of a few of their farming brethren who do not take the necessary precautions. I, for one, will continue to serve eggs to my family on a regular basis. For a quick, healthy, and tasty meal, they simply cannot be beat.

Here are some of my favorite egg recipes:

Asparagus Frittata with Smoked Paprika, Thyme & Feta Cheese
Baked Eggs with Summer Vegetables & Capers
Caprese Frittata with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil
Greek Baked Eggs with Leeks, Kalamata Olives & Goat Cheese
Potato-Crusted Quiche with Pancetta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Spinach

The giveaway:

The lucky winner will win these three items:

1 Simply Calphalon Enamel 8-inch Covered Omelet Pan
1 Cuisipro Silicone 8-Inch Egg Whisk
1 OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Omelet Turner

To enter, please respond to the following question in the comments section:

"What is your favorite egg dish?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Entries will be accepted until Saturday, October 16, 2010, 9pm PST.

Bloggers who attended this event:

Amy of She Wears Many Hats
Susan of She’s Becoming Doughmesstic
Jennifer of Savor the Thyme
Michelle, standing in for Mandy of Gourmet Mom on the Go
Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
Kelsey of The Naptime Chef
Erin of Prudence Pennywise
Kristy of The Wicked Noodle

Disclosure: This trip and giveaway items were paid for by the American Egg Board.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Morning Rush & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.



I always say that if I accomplished as much during the remainder of the day as I do between the hours of 5:45 and 8:15 in the morning, I could rule the world. Mornings are notoriously busy around our house and I am certain that many other people can claim the same. My husband, the trooper that he is, typically crawls out of bed first so that he can fit his run in before I head out to meet my running partner. Starting the day with a vigorous run, and being outside in the cool air just as the sun starts to rise over the mountains and the birds begin their daily activities, keeps me sane. It is a time for gratitude, reflection, and some good old-fashioned chit-chat with my running buddy.

Then I step from the peaceful outdoors into a house full of crazy morning antics. I am certain this is where the term “calm before the storm” originated. Morning showers; kids getting dressed, making bed, and brushing their teeth; lunch boxes and backpacks being packed; pets being fed – these are just a few of the activities we attempt to jam into a period of time that seems to go by at warp speed.

While it may seem that there is an inane amount of craziness that takes place at our house, I can tell you that it is a lot better than it used to be. We now successfully get out the door each morning and still like each other by the end of it. How do we do it? One word: preparation.

The night before we organize as much as can. Lunches are made and stored in the fridge, lunch boxes are at the ready on the kitchen counter, breakfast dishes and utensils are set on the table, and cereal, bagel, and fruit choices are organized.

One of the keys to accomplishing everything quickly is choosing breakfast items that are quick and convenient. It takes less than two minutes to pour cereal into a bowl, top it with some slices of fresh fruit, and douse it in cold milk. With the quick preparation out of the way, we have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a nutritious, filling meal together. To keep us satisfied longer, we choose high-fiber cereal such as Raisin Bran and Smart Start.


Morning tasks are wrapped up and we head off to enjoy the day and conquer the world.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What types of food do you prepare in the morning to make this busy time simpler?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 9/28 - 10/4/2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ragu, Feeding Kids on Busy Nights & A Giveaway

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and RagĂș.




As the school year gets into full swing, so do all of the extra activities that come with the season. There are some days when the kids have to power through their homework so that they can pull on their shin guards and cleats to get to soccer practice on time. My husband and I try our best not to over-schedule our kids because we believe that playing tag in the backyard and building with Legos are very worthy activities. We also make an effort to sit down to dinner together every night. It is our time to re-hash the day's events, tell silly stories, and reconnect as a family. That being said, there are days when putting a healthy, satisfying meal on the table is a challenge. Over the years, I have come up with a few tricks to help us avoid the fast food trap. It is our hope that, through healthy food and plenty of family time, we can raise confident, healthy, and happy children.

Convenience foods
As a food blogger, I tend to cook most of my meals from scratch, using the freshest ingredients I can find. However, on busy nights, I often rely on convenience foods so I can put a healthy meal on the table quickly. I always have canned beans, frozen potstickers, and jars of tomato sauce stocked and ready to go. When Ragu sent me some of their bottles of tomato sauce, I was very interested in sampling it. More on that later.

Freezer envy
One of the best purchases we ever made was a full-sized standing freezer, which is nestled into a corner of our garage. This allows us to take advantage of the great deals on chicken, fish, beef, and pork at the warehouse stores without worrying about the meat going bad before we have a chance to eat it. The night before or in the morning, I take something out of the freezer to defrost and it is ready to be cooked when dinnertime arrives.

Chopped vegetables
If I am prepping vegetables on a more leisurely night, I chop extra. Sliced red bell peppers, chopped carrots, and broccoli florets stay fresh when stored properly in the fridge. When the prep work is already done, the meal comes together a lot faster.


Make extras
During the cooler months, we eat significant amounts of chili, soup, and baked pasta dishes. It is very easy to double these recipes and freeze the extras for future meals.

The taste test
Ragu sent me two tomato sauces to try. Both were the Old World Style Traditional Pasta Sauce, but one was Ragu's old formula and the other was their new formulation of the same sauce. When I first opened the bottles, the first thing I noticed was that the new formula has a deeper, richer color. I took a spoonful of the old formula and, to be honest, I was not satisfied. In my opinion, the old formula had a slightly artificial taste. Next, I took a spoonful of the new formula. The deeper red color promised a richer taste and did not disappoint. Ragu states that there are 2 servings of vegetables in every half-cup of the sauce and I believe it. The fresh, slightly acidic taste of the tomatoes was prominent and the new formula had a thick, satisfying consistency.

Now, please remember that I write about and cook a lot of food as my part-time job, so I am rather picky. I will not lie and tell you that I would choose Ragu's sauce over one made from fresh tomatoes on my stovetop. However, when we have a busy night in front of us, I am looking for convenience and Ragu's sauce would fit the bill.

I visited Ragu's recipe page so that I could choose a recipe to make with the new formula sauce. I chose the lasagna recipe, which required two bottles of Ragu sauce, along with about 6 other ingredients. In other words, it was a quick and easy recipe to throw together. Now, it is not in my blood to follow any recipe to a tee, so I made a couple of simple changes. I substituted grated mozzarella cheese with fresh mozzarella, plus I added about 10 leaves of thinly sliced fresh basil. This was not the best lasagna I have had, but it was a satisfying meal for my family.

To be one of the first to taste RagĂș® with two servings of veggies in every half-cup, visit Ragu at facebook.com/ragusauce.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, sponsored by BlogHer, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What are your tips for feeding your kids on busy nights?"

For a second entry, you can:
· Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
· Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
· Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please visit BlogHer.com special offers page for 10 more chances to win a Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 10/4 - 11/15/2010.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

There is also a chance to win a Meal Makeover kit (sponsored by Ragu). See Ragu's Facebook fan page for details.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weekend Mornings & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.


Caprese Frittata with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Recipe

Looking back 10 years, weekend mornings meant waking up whenever my body was ready, nursing a cup of tea while lying in bed and reading the morning paper, and wandering up the street to our favorite bagel spot. Fast forward to present day...these mornings have changed radically. Each Saturday morning, I wake up before 6 am to meet my friend for our long run of the week. While stumbling out of bed, shoving half a banana into my mouth, and chugging down a glass of water is not what I would call relaxing, I always feel fantastic once the run is over. It makes me feel good physically and curbs the need to do something for myself.

Kelloggs8-2

The rest of Saturday is spent getting the kids ready for their soccer games. My husband and I make sure that they eat a healthy breakfast, such as cereal or a whole wheat bagel and fresh fruit. Off we go to the soccer fields to spend 3 to 4 hours cheering, running, kicking, and enjoying the time together. Really, it just does not get any better than watching our two boys run up and down the field, with huge smiles plastered to their faces. Pure joy.

Kelloggs8-1

Sunday is a little different. This is the day that my husband wakes up early for his long run. Since he is a marathoner, a long run means 20 to 23 miles. I'll stick with my 6 to 8 miles, thank you very much. While he is out knocking out the miles, the boys and I snuggle on the couch, watching cartoons and cruising my favorite food blogs. As you might imagine, my husband is famished when he returns from his run, so Sunday mornings are a day when we sit down to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Some of our favorites are Caprese Frittatas, Baked German Apple Pancakes, and Potato-Crusted Quiche.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What do you and your family like to eat for breakfast on weekend mornings?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 9/28 - 10/4/2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Laundry Tips

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Samsung.



I have been tempted many times to add up the number of hours that I spend doing laundry each week, but have decided that ignorance is bliss in this situation. With two very active boys, who like to jump in muddy puddles and play hard, and a husband who runs 70 miles per week, we never seem to be able to get ahead of the laundry pile. Along with the inordinate amount of time spent washing and folding soccer socks and running shorts, we are aware of the environmental impact washing and drying can have. Oh yeah, our bank account is not terribly appreciate either.

I will assume that all of you reading this know not to wash red socks with white pants, so I will stick to less known tips that either my mum taught me or I picked up through trial and error.

Turning and zipping
While it takes a little bit of extra time, turning clothes (not underwear and socks) inside out before washing helps to prevent fading and wear and tear on the fabric. Do up any zippers or hooks to prevent them from catching on other clothes in the washer.

Turn down the temperature
Use the coolest water possible to wash your clothes. Not only will this prevent clothes from fading and quickly (not to mention unwanted shrinking), but it will do wonders for your electric bill. Turning the dryer to low heat will give you the same benefits.

Dryer balls
We used to throw a dryer sheet in with every load. That is, until we discovered dryer balls. These little miracles are allergy-free, will help to reduce drying time, and are far better for the environment than dryer sheets. Each pair lasts for a couple of years.


Baby your delicates
Delicates, such as lingerie, can be protected by placing them in a mesh wash bag before being thrown in with the rest of the laundry. These bags will help to protect your bras and underwear from wearing out too quickly (saggy elastic is never a good thing) and being damaged in the wash.


Clean your washer
It is never good news when your son is yelling, "Mum, come quick. There's a flood!" That is what happened to us a couple of months ago when our washing machine overflowed, spilling gallons of water over our laundry room floor. When the repairman came, he discovered that the tube that clears the dirty water out of the washer was blocked. He was able to just blow the blockage out, but also gave me an invaluable tip. One time per month, use a washing machine cleaner, such as the ones made by Tide or Affresh. They can be found beside the detergents in your local supermarket. Of course, you could use vinegar to do the same job, but be prepared for a laundry room that smells like a pickling factory.
After using the washing machine cleaner, we noticed that our clothes smelled significantly fresher.

What are your tried and true laundry tips?

For laundry tips from 6 other bloggers, head to the BlogHer round-up page.

Check out some of Samsung household products:

Samsung Washers & Dryers
Samsung Refrigerators
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Quality Mornings & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.



If Mary Poppins had paid a visit to our home during the last school year, she would have declared us "an abomination". Each morning, we tore around the house at full speed, throwing supplies into our kids' backpacks, and urging them to eat faster. What a way to start the day! We would all walk...okay, run...out of the door in foul moods and try to mend the parent-child bond on the way to school.

This school year, I was determined to make a change. The key is simple, something I always knew, but did not put into practice. Organization. Every night before school, the boys and I make their lunches and set them neatly in the fridge so that can easily be placed into the waiting lunch boxes in the morning. The boys are also responsible for organizing their desks and insuring that all of their homework makes its way into the appropriate folders and backpacks.

When we wake up in the morning, leaving ourselves plenty of time, the boys get dressed, make their beds, and brush their teeth before heading downstairs for breakfast. By the time they appear, my husband and I have started making breakfast, which typically consists of cereal, bagels or waffles, and fresh fruit. Whole grain, high-fiber foods are a focus at our breakfast table since research shows that diets high in fiber help to address issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. For this reason, we choose cereals such as Raisin Bran and Smart Start.


With a hearty breakfast giving us the proper nutrients and energy for the day ahead, we spend our last few minutes together playing on the swings, shooting hoops, or kicking the soccer ball back and forth. The result? Happy, healthy kids and relaxed, stress-free (well, almost) parents. I think Mary Poppins would approve.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"How do you start the day on a positive note?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 9/21 - 9/27/2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back-to-School & A Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kelloggs.


M&TSchool-NutellaCookiePost

One of the hardest things about bidding farewell to summer is the necessity of fitting life into a succinct schedule. Gone are the mornings of eating breakfast in pajamas, showering late in the day, and lingering at the breakfast table to chat. Rather, the morning routine is compressed into one short hour before leaping into the car, Dukes of Hazards-style (well, almost), and rolling off out of the garage on time. Last year, we always seemed to be in a rush and tempers flared as the minutes ticked by. I am determined to change that this year.

The last thing my kids need is a mum and dad yelling at them to "Hurry up!" as they prepare for a day at school. To avoid the inevitable rush, I now attempt to have as many of the morning to-do items checked off the night before. Here are some tips that make our morning routine go smoothly (relatively-speaking):

1) Each night, I make sandwiches for the boys, wrap up some carrot sticks and a snack, and place them in the fridge - one pile for each boy. Lunch bags are placed on the counter so that we just have to place the lunches inside in the morning before the bags are tucked away in backpacks.

2) The boys are responsible for placing completed homework in their backpacks, along with anything else they would like to take (e.g., soccer or football).

3) The breakfast table is set with place mats, napkins, bowls, and utensils.

4) On the kitchen counter, we lay out the breakfast choices which are usually a whole wheat bagel, whole wheat muffins, or cereal. My husband and I typically eat Kellogg's Raisin Bran or Smart Start, while our eldest son chooses Rice Krispies. All that is left to do in the morning is pour the cereal, chop some fresh fruit, and pour the milk. We are adamant about eating a good breakfast each morning to insure a healthy start to the day. From research, we know that children that skip breakfast miss out on more than one-third of the day's recommended vitamins and minerals.

5) Each morning, the boys hope for a few minutes of playtime before heading off to school. They know, however, that there are certain things that they must complete in time for that happen - get dressed, brush hair and teeth, and put on shoes. The promise of playtime is a very effective motivator for completing these tasks.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What are your tips for making your mornings go smoothly?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please head to the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page for 24 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 9/14 - 9/20/2010.

For more information on Kellogg's, head to www.loveyourcereal.com.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.
Read more!
StumbleUpon

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tips on Organizing Your Kitchen

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Samsung.



Asking me for organization tips is a bit like asking Bernie Madoff to lecture on the ethics of business. There is some basic understanding of how things work, but the principles are rarely put into practice. That being said, I spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, developing recipes for my blog and cooking meals for my family. Even though I am not the tidiest person - just ask my husband about the little piles of paper on various countertops - I am rather picky about the set-up of my kitchen.

For me, the ability to reach necessary kitchen utensils and pans quickly is essential. The time it takes to walk to the other side of the kitchen to reach the tongs, for example, can make the difference between a perfectly seared shrimp and a rubbery, inedible specimen.

The tools that are used the most - tongs, wooden spoons, spatulas, knives - stand proudly in ceramic containers immediately to the right of my stove. I am right-handed, so this makes reaching as convenient as possible. Likewise, my saucepans and skillets are in a drawer on the other side of the stove.


Yes, I still cook on electric. How I yearn for a proper gas stove! Someday.

A couple of years ago, when my mum was here for a visit, she decided to tackle the job of organizing my pantry. Believe me, she deserved a gold star for this! Using a mixture of wicker baskets and plastic containers, she divided my (very large) collection of condiments into manageable sections - oils, vinegars, mustards and so on. Baking ingredients were nestled together in two boxes with pull-out drawers, and dried pasta was neatly arranged in one small section. When she was done with it, I almost felt like I was living a scene out of Sleeping with the Enemy. Now that guy knew how to organize a pantry. Too bad he was completely off his rocker.


One of my friends owns a label maker and puts that little machine to very good use. I tease her that her kids are going to have labels on them if they don't run from her quickly enough. I borrowed the handy little tool one day and had a ball labeling all of my dried grains containers. Alongside the name of the grain are the cooking instructions. If I am running late, my husband can get dinner started without calling to ask me how much water gets added to the brown rice.


While I am on my way to better kitchen organization, I would really like to hear your tips.

How do you keep your pantry organized? Do you have any tips on making your kitchen function more efficiently?

For tips from 6 other bloggers on organizing your kitchen, head to the BlogHer round-up page.

Check out some of Samsung household products:

Samsung Washers & Dryers
Samsung Refrigerators
Read more!
StumbleUpon