Cinnamon Rolls & A Giveaway!

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It’s amazing how quickly one can go through butter for holiday baking, so it’s essential for me to stock up when it goes on sale! Usually $2/lb. is my stock-up price, and when I stock up, I usually buy 10 lbs. at a time. I have to wonder what the cashier thinks of me when I purchase all that butter, and I’ve been asked if I own a bakery once. Nope…I just LOVE to bake!

This recipe for cinnamon rolls goes through some butter, y’all. At first, I thought there was no way all of that butter was going to go in the cinnamon rolls…no way. However….yup…I used over a pound of butter in a batch of cinnamon rolls. 4 sticks alone served as part of the filling! Now, this recipe isn’t just for 8 rolls…I got 48 rolls out of this recipe. It’s the perfect recipe for gift-giving, and it comes from someone who is always cooking for a crowd: The Pioneer Woman.
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I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her cinnamon roll recipe, but since it’s such a large recipe, I felt like I needed an occasion to make these. Well, how about the holidays? When this recipe makes 6 pans worth, you could totally get away with gifting this to neighbors, family, friends….whoever you want! I took a tip from The Pioneer Woman, and baked them in cheap disposable baking pans. While they aren’t the prettiest, you can totally dress up the pan by dying the icing, adding sprinkles on top of the rolls & wrapping the pan in holiday cellophane paper! How awesome would it be to give something like this to a loved one?

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These cinnamon rolls were divine. Just…divine. This is my first time making cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I firmly believe that the scent of butter/sugar/cinnamon/dough needs to be in a candle. Holy moly…it smelled like king cake in our house! The rolls themselves were a tender, fluffy texture, thanks to Red Star Platinum yeast. I first heard about Red Star Yeast when I attended a King Arthur Flour seminar a couple of years ago. We were given samples at the seminar, and when I baked with the yeast, I was so surprised at how well the dough rose! I ended up purchasing a full 1 lb. block of Red Star Yeast the next week. I’m definitely a fan of their yeast.

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Lumps of Coal & A Giveaway!

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I’m ridiculously excited about this week’s posts. As you guys may already know, I’m a big fan of the holiday season. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to DIY some of the gifts, and this week is going to be all about homemade holiday gifts that you can easily make from the kitchen. So, everyday this week (with the exception of Thanksgiving), I’ll be featuring a fun homemade holiday gift idea, along with a giveaway from some very generous companies whose products I love to use!

Today, I wanted to share with you guys how easy it is to make these adorable “lumps of coal”.

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Red Stick Spice Company & A Giveaway!

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Up until a few years ago, I really had no idea what a difference good, quality spices make in cooking/baking. I’ll be honest…back in the hot dog/blue box macaroni cooking days, I thought that spices never expired! I also thought that you could get away with purchasing the cheapest spices in the store, and you’d still get the same result. However, I learned that spices usually have a shelf life of a couple of years, and it’s always smart to purchase good quality spices.

I remember going to a specialty spice store for the first time when I went to Houston with my husband, and we really stocked up, since we knew that Baton Rouge had nothing like this. It was a bummer, since Louisiana is such a food-centric state…why wouldn’t we have more stores like this? However, a couple of years ago, I first heard of this business called Red Stick Spice Company (in case you didn’t know Baton Rouge is French for Red Stick). I looked up their website, and decided that the first free weekend I had, I had to visit this business and see what they were all about!

Let’s just say I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I purchased 1/2 cup of cinnamon for my holiday baking when I went for my first visit, as well as some other hard-to-find spices that I wanted to use for some recipes. I didn’t shop there very often, because let’s face it, how often do you need to replenish spices? However, they were my go-to when I had a big spice related purchase to make! At some point, the owners decided to sell this business, and I’ll be honest…I was worried about what would happen to this spice store that I’ve just fallen in love with. Well y’all…GREAT things have happened since the new owner, Anne Milneck, took over!

I went to the store for the first time since the new owner took over a few weeks ago, and it was awesome! I’m a sucker for great logos/branding, as well as a store with lovely displays, and this store definitely has all of that!

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The Time You Save & A Calphalon Giveaway

With the holiday season just around the corner, time with family and friends is so important. The holidays can be very hectic, between the shopping and party planning, but if you can save some time on the day to day tasks (like cooking for your family/cleaning up afterwards), you can definitely etch out some time with your loved ones.

Calphalon recently relaunched their popular Contemporary Nonstick line, and is all about helping families save time with “The Time You Save” campaign. One of the key new perks about the cookware is that it’s now dishwasher safe! So, you can make your quick, weeknight meals, rinse the pot/pan out & place it straight in the dishwasher with your plates & utensils. Calphalon realizes that The Time You Save is valuable, so taking away the task of doing the dishes after a meal is great! You can now take some time away from the kitchen, and instead, enjoy that time with your family decorating the house, wrapping gifts or building a gingerbread house for the holidays! :-)

Also, along with Calphalon’s “The Time You Save” campaign, I wanted to share a couple of recipes with y’all, featuring their new cookware that requires very little hands-on time in the kitchen. :-)

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Calphalon sent me their new panini pan, as well as their 8 quart multi-pot with steamer to use for some time-saving recipes. I used their panini pan to make a chicken panini, using leftover roasted chicken, and I used the multi-pot to make a chicken tortilla soup.

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Holiday Spritz Cookies & A Giveaway!

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I am in hog heaven lately. It’s no surprise to you guys that Christmas is a holiday that I just adore, and with the holidays, there is always baking. Lots and lots of baking. I know I mentioned last week that I had to special order 28 blocks of cream cheese…well, when the butter goes on sale, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need 15 boxes. I’m not even kidding. I just love holiday baking, and truly enjoy sharing those treats with the ones that I care about.

America’s Test Kitchen recently came out with their newest book: The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, and sent me a complimentary copy to review. I just adore America’s Test Kitchen. I subscribe to both Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, as well as frequently cook from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. So when they asked me if I’d like to review this book, I didn’t even have to think about it. I actually had this book on my holiday wish list when I first read about the book in this post (which is what encouraged me to bake those scrumptious sticky buns in the first place). :-) When I received it in the mail, I had my post-its in hand ready to mark the recipes that I wanted to make right away.

The book contains 15 different chapters, with 450 recipes total. The book also has a comprehensive section called baking basics, explaining pretty much anything you ever needed to know about basic baking ingredients and tools, as well as tips to become a better baker in the kitchen.

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It’s also beautifully illustrated. I’m usually a sucker for color photos when it comes to food photography, but the black and white photography just draws you in. Also, in true Cook’s Illustrated fashion, there are step-by-step illustrations for some of the more complicated recipes. I appreciate this, because while you don’t necessarily always need step-by-step photos, there are some recipes where you just need an illustration or two to guide you along the way. There’s also notes in the beginning of every recipe, explaining what the recipe is and how certain ingredients in the recipe work to make this recipe just perfect.

As I was skimming through the book, these holiday spritz cookies caught my eye. Really, it was the word “holiday”. ;-) I’ve attempted to make spritz cookies before, and sadly, the dough ended up being too thick to use in the cookie press. I haven’t attempted spritz cookies since, and that was a few years ago. While I own a cookie press, I wanted to try it with another method that they recommended: a star tip and a piping bag. Genius….

I was so excited when these cookies actually piped out, and they baked up perfectly. These cookies put those holiday tin cookies to shame. They’re perfectly buttery, not too sweet, and are so simple to make! I ended up adding some sprinkles to some before baking as well, and that gave them some extra holiday flair. Of course, they’re delicious on their own, but sprinkles make everything more fun, right?

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Smoked Turkey & A Giveaway!

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Whew! What a busy weekend it was!

It all started with a good 3 miles of running after work on Friday. This half marathon training stuff is crazy. Just crazy. I’m only running 3-4 miles now, and I can’t imagine going 4 times as far!! Then, Saturday, we decided to do a practice holiday meal (since we’re probably hosting Christmas this year…YAY!) and invited the in-laws over…smoked turkey, potatoes, green beans, a twist on cranberry sauce that knocked everyone’s socks off (sharing that Wednesday) and a great dessert that I’m sharing with you guys Friday! It’s going to be a week of Thanksgiving…with a twist…on the blog. I hope you all LOVE it as much as we loved it!

Can I also brag a bit? As far as my side of the family goes…Christmas shopping is ALL DONE! I just have to get something for my husband, and of course, help him out with his family’s gifts. :-) Once I get started on shopping, I am a gift shopping machine. I kind of want to go in the attic and grab our container of gift wrap, but I think my husband would give me a permanent side-eye. Ah well…now to just relax and finish making the gifts that I plan on crafting.

So, that picture may not be the most picture perfect turkey (I think it’s because I didn’t butter the skin well enough and I tore it…womp wah), but OMG…it was SO tasty. And that’s all that matters, right? (especially once it’s carved up) Making the turkey in a smoker is a fun twist on the traditional oven-roasted turkey. It’s full of smoky flavor, and since the turkey is injected with a whole jar of marinade, the turkey is crazy moist.

NOTE: This recipe is intended for an electric smoker (we own a Masterbuilt one).

Smoked Turkey
Source: Dadgum, That’s Good

Ingredients:

  • one whole turkey, thawed
  • 1 bottle buttery creole injection marinade…make sure it comes with an injector or purchase your own (we used Tony Chachere’s)
  • cajun seasoning (we used Tony Chachere’s)
  • apple wood chips, for smoking
  • apple juice
  • water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Fill the smoker’s water pan 1/3 of the way full with half apple juice and half water (about 3 cups for our particular water pan). Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Rinse out and dry the thawed turkey in the sink (don’t forget to disinfect the sink after this!). Using the injector, inject the turkey (in various areas) with one full jar of the buttery marinade.
  2. Liberally season the skin (and carefully underneath the skin) of the turkey with cajun seasoning, being sure to rub it well into the skin. Cut the butter into small pats, and carefully place them under the skin of the turkey.
  3. Add a small handful of apple wood chips to the smoker (we have a special loader for this). Open the smoker, and place the turkey on a rack high in the smoker (in the center of the rack) and close the door. Every hour or so of the cooking process, add another handful of apple wood chips to your smoker (no more than 5 times for the whole cooking process of the turkey). Smoke the turkey for about 30 minutes per lb., ensuring that the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees.
  4. Remove the turkey from the smoker and place it on a rimmed baking sheet, covering the entire turkey with foil to allow it to rest. Allow the turkey to rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Peanut Butter Mississippi Mud Brownies

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It’s finally that time of the year. The weather finally got a clue and cooled down. I was super giddy about it all, until I remembered that my allergies usually hate weather changes. Let’s just say that I raided the grocery store today, and amongst the things in my cart were Mucinex, zinc drops, vitamin C, Benadryl & Reese’s cups. Priorities, people!

One of the great things about the weather cooling down is that I just want to bake up a storm. I naturally purchase more butter, flour, sugar and eggs. I already have a stockpile of chocolate chips & random candies to mix into baked goodies, so I don’t have to go to the store when the urge to bake strikes.  :-) I also really crave comfort foods, like pot roast, gumbo and chili.

Recently, I was asked if I wanted to review a copy of Southern Living’s new book “No Taste Like Home”, which was released yesterday.

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As a fan of Southern Living, I couldn’t say no, and with Southern Living being known for the typical Southern, comforting recipes, it was perfect timing with the weather cooling down. This book basically highlights recipes from different regions of the South, including:

  • The Heart of Dixie
  • Cajun Country
  • Big, Bold Texas
  • The Piedmont & the Mountains
  • The Bluegrass, Bourbon & Barbecue Trail
  • The Coastal South

Basically, if you’re from the South, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some familiar hometown recipes. If you’re not from the South, you’ll probably want to start cooking from this book immediately to introduce yourself to some amazing Southern fare.  :-)

When I got the book in my hands, I immediately had to skim through it with my sticky note pad handy to bookmark recipes that caught my eye. Let’s just say that the copy I have is full of sticky notes. So many wonderful recipes, and the photos are just lovely. I typically would have first made a recipe from the “Cajun Country” (Louisiana) chapter, but this recipe, from “The Heart of Dixie” (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) chapter was just pulling me in. Rich chocolate brownies with peanut butter batter swirled in, topped with melted, gooey marshmallows, peanuts and a decadent chocolate frosting. I mean…c’mon. How could I not?

Do I even have to say that they were beyond delicious? Oh my gosh…insanely good! You will definitely want a glass of milk (or heck, a scoop of ice cream) handy for these, though. They’re definitely indulgent, and while there’s a few steps involved, they are just completely worth it. I promise!

Now, of course I wouldn’t gush about this book without sharing some of the love! The wonderful folks at Southern Living/YC Media are offering a lucky Nifty Foodie reader a copy of this book. To enter the giveaway, just check out the Rafflecopter widget below! [Read more...]

Bananas Foster a la Mode Cups & A Giveaway!

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A couple of months ago, my husband and I went to a restaurant in New Orleans. When it came time for dessert, we decided to split something, but the problem with splitting with my husband is the dessert cannot contain any chocolate, caramel or peanut butter (he hates it all). I know…poor guy doesn’t know what he’s missing! Luckily, this particular restaurant had a bananas foster torte, so I knew we were set. It was absolutely delicious, indulgent and rich. In fact, I’m SO glad we split it, because there was no way I could eat the whole thing. Ever since then, bananas foster has been fresh on my mind. I had to make a fun recipe with this classic New Orleans favorite.

I’m thrilled to be working with Calphalon again to review their brand new Elite Nonstick cookware, which is sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. It’s currently for sale on their website, and will be in stores on September 27th. I’m sure you guys know that I love using nonstick cookware, but one of the biggest issues I’ve faced is being limited to wooden or silicone utensils. This line is safe for metal utensils (fork out your whisks!). Yep…I’m serious! This cookware also comes with a textured sear surface, which is awesome because you can get the sear that you usually get from stainless steel, but with the convenience (hello, easy clean-up) of a nonstick pan. This line of cookware is also dishwasher safe.

Calphalon sent me this 3 piece set to review, and asked me to create a modern twist on a classic recipe, using one of the pans. With that in mind, I grabbed the 10″ pan, some bananas and got to work! The end result is homemade bananas foster ice cream, topped with warm bananas foster, contained in a cinnamon sugar wonton cup. I hope you like bananas for this one, y’all, because there is plenty of sweet banana flavor in this recipe!

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For the ice cream, I omitted the rum, because even though the alcohol cooks off, I didn’t want to chance the ice cream not setting up properly. I suggest making the ice cream one day before you plan on serving these desserts, so the ice cream can be a scoop-able consistency.

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Sucré New Orleans Review/Giveaway

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Being from the New Orleans area, I’m so lucky to be surrounded by amazing restaurants and businesses. Back when I worked in the uptown area, I was exposed to a whole new area of small businesses that I fell in love with. Sucré was one of them. I was ecstatic when they expanded and opened a location at the mall in the area. It’s such an inviting place, and I love to drop in almost every time I’m in town.

If you’ve never been, they sell a little bit of everything to satisfy the sweet tooth, like gelato, chocolates, macaroons, cupcakes and other specialty desserts. I honestly could spend some major money every time I go in there, but I try to restrict myself to one treat (except this one time when I went). :-)

A few weeks ago, the generous folks at Sucré reached out to me to offer a giveaway to you guys. Their 8 pc. indulge chocolate collection, to be exact. I was sent a box to review as well (ok, twist my arm), and I just wanted to share just how gorgeous this box truly is.

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Wholly Stuffed Jalapenos and a GIVEAWAY

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I used to be an avocado hater. There…I said it. When I was a kid, I thought they had a weird texture and tasted kind of bland. It took me until college to give these a try again, and it was in the form of guacamole. Avocado quickly became one of those foods that I learned to love as an adult. If something has sliced avocado or guacamole in it, chances are I’m gonna go for it.

As easy as it is to throw together some guacamole, I have to admit that I was stoked to find out about Wholly Guacamole’s products. I first discovered Wholly Guacamole products on a whim at the grocery store. When I started calorie counting, I basically walked all of the aisles of the grocery store to find snack ideas, and I came upon their 100 calorie guacamole packs. While I could definitely eat a whole batch of guacamole, I loved the idea of having it pre-portioned in a small amount. It’s the perfect dip for baked tortilla chips and veggies!

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