White Chocolate Peppermint Mousse Pie + GIVEAWAY!

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Southern Living Christmas All Through the South” at no cost to me, for a fair and honest review. Southern Living/YC Media is providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

White Chocolate Peppermint Mousse Pie

I’ve had a really rough past week. Two deaths in my family (one being my grandmother and the other being the family dog) happened, and I just don’t know how to stop randomly crying when I start thinking about a world without either of them. I know that humans > dog, and my grandmother and family dog don’t compare. They don’t. Just two large pieces of bad news, and I’m terrible at grieving. I do know that they are both no longer suffering ,and that gives me a bit of solace. It’s just really hard with the holidays around the corner.

I’m an early holiday celebrator. I just love the holidays, as I’m sure this is no secret to y’all. However, when my husband offered to take down the decorations this week (the same husband who is firmly in the post-Thanksgiving decorating camp), I said no. I’m just not feeling the holiday spirit right now. The idea of taking everything down and making the house Christmas-y is suddenly making me a bit overwhelmed. Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if I would be perfectly content just taking down the gift wrap and not decorating at all this year. This is so not like me. I’ve tried watching “Christmas Vacation”, listening to Christmas Pandora, and I’m just meh about it all. I know this has a lot to do with our family’s losses, so I’m hoping my mini holiday funk will pass.

In another attempt to get the holiday spirit back, I decided to make something with holiday flavors. I was sent a review copy of Southern Living Christmas All Through the South, and I picked out the most seasonal sounding recipe to me at the time to whip up: White Chocolate-Peppermint Mousse Pie. Peppermint Bark is one of my favorites around the holidays, and I thought with the chocolate cookie crust and white chocolate peppermint mousse, I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe. Something about whipping egg whites and heavy cream into fluffy goodness is oddly therapeutic. Just watching the components come together distracted me enough to forget about the bad news for a while. It was really pleasant…

Hopefully, I’ll shake out of this mini funk soon. I’m just going to take this weekend to relax a bit, since I feel like this has been the longest week ever. I need Monday.

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My Ultimate Gift Guide + GIVEAWAY!

Disclosure: I was sent an Aerogarden 3SL at no cost to me, for a fair and honest review, by Miracle Gro (through KitchenPLAY). They also supplied me with the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

Gift guide

I’ve been asking my husband almost every day if I can convince him to go in the attic and bring down all of our Christmas decorations. The answer never changes…”Wait until Thanksgiving.” Well, next week is Thanksgiving!!

Also…next week is Thanksgiving? Dang!

It’s getting to be that point of the year where family/friends are asking me what I want for Christmas. While I can’t really figure things out (besides new plates/bowls in our kitchen…how boring!), I figured I’d share my favorite things that I’ve been using this year. Maybe this will inspire your wish lists? Who knows…but I figured I would share some of my favorite things with you guys, and also offer a pretty awesome giveaway (at the bottom of this post, if you make it that far…) :-).

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Hosting your First Thanksgiving & Giveaway!

Disclosure: Butterball provided me with a turkey gift check, as well as two other turkey gift checks to giveaway, in exchange for a post. All opinions are 100% my own.

ThanksgivingMeal

I’ve always been a fan of having big family gatherings for holiday meals. I used to watch my mom, aunts and my grandma flawlessly host Thanksgiving year after year, so when I got married, I thought I would give it a try. I mean, how hard could it be?

I’ll never forget that first year. I ran out of counter space, I ran out of oven space, I ran out of time…I mean, there was a meal at the end, but I was a stressed-out mess. I learned quite a few things, and ever since, while there’s always SOMETHING that doesn’t quite go as planned, our holiday meals have been a whole lot better.

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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup + A Giveaway

Disclosure: I received samples from Swanson® for review purposes, as well as soup dinnerware/serveware for this post. All opinions are completely my own, based on my experience. Swanson also provided the prize for this giveaway.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Just a couple of days ago, my husband and I started looking into redoing some aspects of our kitchen. Well, it’s been on the backburner for quite some time, but we seriously looked for the first time this past week.

While I love our current house, I’ve always drooled over gorgeous granite countertops in other homes. I highly doubt we’ll have granite in our kitchen before the holiday season, but hey, it will be soon enough!

Speaking of the holiday season, our radio station started playing Christmas music 24/7. Holy moly….I’m so ready to fork out the decorations and wrap presents! I know I’m in the minority, my husband included..he immediately dismissed me asking him to pull down Christmas stuff when we were putting up Halloween decorations last week. :-P

With the holiday season growing near, we’re finally feeling weather in the 40s (and sometimes, even 30s) here in south Louisiana. Since then, I’ve been craving a lot more soup than usual. After I had some dental work done last month, all that really sounded good was tomato soup (I’m pretty sure I had it 3 times that week), and I wanted to make a big pot of it ever since! I just can’t shake the craving!

The folks at Swanson reached out to me, and asked me if I’d like to try out their new products. I’m a big fan of Swanson broths, so of course, I couldn’t say no! For the new products, I was sent their new cream starters, as well as the Louisiana Cajun and Tuscan Chicken flavor infused broths.

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Apple Cinnamon Margaritas

Disclosure: I received a sample of Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, as well as a gift card for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Please drink responsibly.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita

I seriously cannot get enough of this weather, y’all. We sat outside this past weekend at a neighbor’s house to watch the game, and I was actually CHILLY outside. I was tempted to walk home and grab my blanket for REAL. I love me some chilly weather, but I have a feeling I’m going to be itching for warm Caribbean weather VERY soon (The vacation countdown has begun!).

When we went on our first cruise, we visited Cozumel, Mexico. I made it my mission to look around at all of the gift shops for the perfect Christmas ornament (it’s my little tradition for our vacation spots), and while I was shopping, I started to notice a lot of (what I now know as) sugar skulls. I found them to be beautiful, with all sorts of different color combinations, and confession time: I honestly had no idea what they were for. When I got home, I googled and found out all about The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).

Dia de los Muertos is a family-focused holiday from November 1-2, where family and friends gather together to pray for and remember those who passed away. In Mexico, families build private altars and include candy skulls, marigolds (which are known as flowers of the dead), chocolate coffins, as well as favorite food/drinks of the deceased family members to entice them to return.

To celebrate Dia de los Muertos, I am sharing this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Margaritas, using Casa Noble Crystal Tequila. Margaritas are one of my favorite cocktails, but my go-to is usually a strawberry, mango or lime margarita. For this tequila though, I wanted to make a fall version of this tasty beverage, and that’s how this apple cinnamon margarita happened. I kept some of the classic citrus flavors in there, but with the addition of an apple cider base, this drink is delicious! The Crystal Tequila is also very smooth and worked perfectly in this drink! This margarita would be perfect to enjoy on a cool, fall evening! This recipe makes one large or two small margaritas.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Casa Noble Crystal Tequila
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec (or other orange liquor)
  • Juice of ½ of a large orange
  • Juice of ½ of a lime, reserving the other half of the lime for rimming
  • 4 oz. apple cider
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • crushed ice
  • Optional: festive colored sugar, additional 1/4 tsp. cinnamon & apple slices for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a shaker with the crushed ice, and shake the mixture thoroughly until all ingredients are blended.
  2. Optional: Place some colored sugar & 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon on a flat plate and mix together. Using a slice from the remaining half of the lime, run the inside of the lime along the rim of your serving glass(es), and then dip the rim in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  3. Pour the margarita into your serving glass(es), being mindful not to pour any on the rim. Garnish with an apple slice and enjoy!

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies & A Contest!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for writing this post, but I did receive whole grains products at no cost to me as an ambassador. I developed this recipe for the “Make the Switch” campaign since I’m a 2014 Whole Grains Ambassador for the Whole Grains Council. This recipe is an entry into a recipe contest for a potential prize. All opinions are 100% my own.

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies

Right now, I want nothing more than comfort food. It feels like 100 degrees outside, but with crisp, fall weather on the horizon, I’m in the mood to practically live in my kitchen right now. I mentioned that there would be quite a bit more baking on the blog, and well…here’s more of it! This time, however, I’m pushing all-purpose flour to the side and giving you guys quinoa cookies.

No, really. These cookies aren’t exactly diet-friendly (hello PB and M&Ms!), but they do make use of whole grains, which is a great thing to incorporate into every day recipes. As a whole grains ambassador, I was challenged to “Make the Switch” to whole grains using a well-known dish to celebrate Whole Grains month in September. I decided to bake up these chewy quinoa monster cookies, since monster cookies are one of my favorite cookies. You can’t go wrong with peanut butter, M&Ms and raisins. So tasty!

Check out the other 15 bloggers who came up with fantastic ideas for all of us to make the switch towards using whole grains. There’s everything from soups to entrees to dessert! So many wonderful ideas. I’m so excited to be included in this group of bloggers, and I hope some of these recipes inspire you all in the kitchen to try more whole grains in your every day cooking/baking.

Now, you may notice that there is a way to VOTE for your favorite recipe by a blogger. One lucky voter could win $500, along with a prize package of whole grain products! I’d really appreciate your vote for my recipe, if you have a moment. The top 5 blogger recipes voted through by readers will be judged in a recipe contest, and the winning bloggers from the resulting contest will win some great cash prizes as well! Voting is open now through September 30th (official rules and further details are linked on the voting website). :-)

Now, this recipe….

Y’all. I really was worried about developing a recipe for quinoa cookies, because I’ve never used quinoa in a dessert, but they came out SO chewy and decadent. My husband brought these to his work, and his coworkers loved them! These quinoa cookies went just as fast as the usual baked goodies that I send to work with him. And yeah…I really did eat three of these the night I made them. They are fantastic!

Again, thanks in advance for reading this post and for potentially voting for my recipe! I really appreciate your support!

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies
Source: A Nifty Foodie Original

(makes about 30 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup pre-cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup candy coated chocolate candies (like M&Ms)
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir the peanut butter, egg and sugar together for a minute or so, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Add in the salt, vanilla extract and baking soda and mix until just combined.
  3. Gently stir in the quinoa, candies, chocolate chips and raisins, until just combined.
  4. Using a standard size cookie scoop, scoop the cookies about 1 ½ inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, and keep them on the cookie sheet for another 10 minutes out of the oven, to continue the baking process and to allow them to set a bit. They will be very soft just out of the oven, so those extra 10 minutes allows them to be easily transferred. After the 10 minutes, place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Bake the rest of the cookies on one of the cookie sheets once the first batch has cooled enough to free up the pan.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Grilled Corn Guacamole

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, on behalf of Amaize Sweet Corn/Golden Sun Marketing. I was compensated for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Grilled Corn Guacamole

Confession time. For the longest time, the types of corn I was familiar with was canned corn and frozen corn on a cob. I never thought to buy fresh corn from the grocery store, since those other types were what I really knew. I was pretty intimidated by fresh corn for a while, but after having freshly grilled corn a couple of years ago, I got hooked!

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Vanilla Sugar-Crusted Scones & A Giveaway!

Disclosure: I was provided Nielsen-Massey vanilla products at no cost to me, as well as the products for the giveaway, at no cost to me. All opinions are 100% my own.

Vanilla Sugar-Crusted Scones

Today is my 10th day of counting calories, and for the first time, I felt comfortable enough with baking to where I knew I wouldn’t eat 3-4 servings of desserts. The weight has been falling steadily, and I’m down a little over 4 lbs. in about a week’s time. To me, that’s pretty darn exciting, but big picture wise, I still have about 80-90 lbs. to go. Instead of my past weekly weigh-ins, I’m going to post monthly goals and monthly progress on here, and share weekly/daily stuff on my Instagram page (if you’d like to follow along).

I’ll have to admit, this was tough to resist. I only had one piece of a scone, just to taste it and share this recipe is with you guys. I truly enjoy baking, and I’m so happy that I’m in a place again where I can enjoy my hobby, but not sabotage my weight loss efforts. Thankfully, my husband’s coworkers and my coworkers enjoy my baking hobby to where nothing will be wasted. :-)

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nielsen-Massey featuring this recipe for vanilla sugar-crusted scones, and I was intrigued. They just sounded so simple and delicious. The recipe calls for not only vanilla bean, but also vanilla extract, boosting the vanilla flavor like crazy. The vanilla flavor, along with that buttery scone flavor, just makes for a great snack. You could serve these with various citrus curds or fruit jams, since vanilla goes with just about anything, or if you wanted to drizzle some chocolate on top, that would work beautifully too. This is a great, basic scone recipe, and the dough came together very quickly.

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Best Ever Brownies & a Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Comfort Food Made Easy” and a container of LouAna coconut oil at no cost to me, for review. All opinions are 100% my own.

besteverbrownies

Goodness. Brownies are a weakness of mine. Warm, slightly under-done brownies…I have no willpower. None. And sadly, brownies are a baked good that whips up super quickly. No need for a mixer…just a large bowl and a whisk. It’s too easy.

Southern Living recently came out with “Comfort Food Made Easy”, which simplifies your favorite comforting dishes. It makes comfort food, which usually takes a good time to cook, easily accessible to cooks with little time to spare in the kitchen. While there were quite a few heavy dishes in there (like macaroni and cheese), there were also quite a few lightened comfort recipes in there for the summer! It’s a really versatile book.

I immediately skimmed through my copy, and my eyes were just drawn to this recipe for the “Best Ever Brownies”. I mean…that’s a big claim, so I had to try it out!

These brownies whipped together rather quickly, and they were just a great recipe. Super fudgy, rich and so tasty. I brought a pan of these to work, and they were gone by 10am. Brownies for breakfast, anyone?

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Peanut Thai Quinoa Salad

Disclosure: I received a selection of whole grain products from the Whole Grain Council to sample, as a whole grain ambassador for “Whole Grain Sampling Day”, but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thai Quinoa Salad

There’s nothing better than finally feeling in control of things again…at least diet-wise. Sure, I still have my splurge days, but for the most part, I don’t go over my calorie count. I have to admit, it really helps that the new office discourages eating at your desk. Walking to the break room for a handful of dried fruit or a granola bar makes me think twice before snacking. I actually like it….mindless snacking while at work was one of my biggest issues, and the new job sort of figured it out for me. :-)

I’ve also started trying new food items again. I was recently approached by the Whole Grains Council about being a Whole Grains Ambassador this year, along with some other fantastic food bloggers. I definitely jumped at the chance, because one thing I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, is that there is nothing wrong with giving new foods a try. One of my favorite whole grains is quinoa, which I wouldn’t have ordinarily tried when I was almost 300 pounds. I was looking for other options for lunch at the office, and there were so many great recipes out there involving quinoa…I just had to give it a try! I know it’s all the rage lately, but I can’t get enough of it. Not only is it tasty (it reminds me of brown rice, but with a nuttier taste), but I also think it’s versatile. You can serve it hot or cold, savory or sweet, and you can easily enjoy it anytime of the day!

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