Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Memories & Tips, Plus a Giveaway

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


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.


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.

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)
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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 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.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Ghirardelli Chocolate Recipes & A Giveaway

This is a sponsored review by BlogHer and Ghirardelli.


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:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?"

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 exclusive offers page for 9 additional chances to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Please see the 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.
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NFL Game Day Preparations, Plus NFL contests

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


"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.


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 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 (click on the contest tab)!

Take it to the House

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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 and click the contest tab.
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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 exclusive offers page to read the holiday stories by 9 other bloggers.

Head to the Folgers site to enter their essay contest.
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