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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Turkey Tex-Mex Sloppy Joe Quesadillas & Calphalon GIVEAWAY

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Well, HELLO JULY! So many wonderful things going on this month: July 4th, my best friend’s wedding (OMG…hope my bridesmaid dress still fits after the 4th haha!)…well, that’s basically it. However, those are two HUGE events to me. I love the 4th of July. LOVE. The fireworks, the smell of the grills going crazy in our neighborhood and celebrating the holiday with All-American classic dishes. It’s just great. I’m pretty sure I wake up on July 4th craving food from the grill. Wonder if my husband would grill breakfast for me….LOL!

One of my favorite All-American dishes is sloppy joes. My Mom used to make sloppy joes a lot when we were kids, and the klutzy person in me loves the fact that the food is naturally sloppy. Whenever I go out to eat, I end up with a line of food around my plate. I’m not a neat eater at all. I’m sort of a disaster in public…I’m surprised people take me anywhere. Any food that says it’s sloppy means no judgement if I make a mess, right? Right.

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Mrs. Smith’s Signature Deep Dish Pies & A Giveaway

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mrs. Smith’s for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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I feel like I’ve been baking pie like crazy lately. Between the office potlucks and family get-togethers, it just seems like the butter will run out. Seriously y’all….I purchased 12 boxes of butter last month and I’m down to 5! Crazy, no?

As much as I love to bake, sometimes there’s a party where I just don’t have the time to make something for us to bring. There may be some people who will judge me for this, but hey, I’ve been known to purchase a frozen pie or two, and bake them up. I usually tend to grab for Mrs. Smith’s, because I’ve never had a bad pie from them. In fact, my husband insists that his all-time favorite pie is Mrs. Smith’s Cinnabon Apple Crumb Pie, so when Mrs. Smith’s (via SocialSpark) offered me the opportunity to try their new line of Mrs. Smith’s Signature Deep Dish pies, I just couldn’t say no.

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In case you’re a stranger to Mrs. Smith’s products, here’s a little background on the company (from the company’s website):

When Amanda Smith baked her first pies in the kitchen of her Pottstown, Pennsylvania home, she used the finest ingredients and amazing attention to detail to create the finest pies available. Amanda Smith started by baking pies for family, friends and charity events, but when her son, Robert Smith, convinced her to sell her pies, a business was born. Today, the makers of MRS. SMITH’S® desserts continue the tradition started by Amanda Smith, delivering pies and cobblers with made-from-scratch goodness you can see and taste. MRS. SMITH’S® pies and cobblers … a timeless tradition. Their new Signature Deep Dish pies come in four flavors:

  • Signature Deep Dish Dutch Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce
  • Signature Deep Dish Cherry Pie with Butter Fudge Sauce
  • Signature Deep Dish Peach Pie with Cream Cheese Icing
  • Signature Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Icing

The great thing about these pies is that it comes with a fun topping packet to help you create a unique, customized pie, and of course, with any Mrs. Smith’s pie, it couldn’t be simpler to bake. Simply take it out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet (in case it leaks) and let it bake in the oven. Then, once the pie has cooled, add the topping.

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I got to try the pumpkin pie, and it was VERY good! It was spiced well (some pumpkin pies don’t have enough spice, in my opinion), and the custard was super smooth! The pie dough was very flaky and not at all soggy, too. I especially loved being able to decorate our pie with the included icing packet, which gave it a fun, festive touch. If you’re under a time crunch this holiday season, this pumpkin pie would definitely do the trick! To find where these pies are sold, here’s a link to the retailers near you. Mrs. Smith’s is generously offering one reader of The Nifty Foodie a coupon for a free Signature Deep Dish pie, as well as a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma!!
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White Chocolate Brownies & A Giveaway

White Chocolate Brownies

I love living in the South. Sure, the heat index is enough to make you want to just sit in an ice bath all day, but the food?! Oh, the food MORE than makes up for it.

Around here….

…your cooking is judged based on how good your gumbo is
…we embrace stale bread for bread pudding
…we have a love (the drink)/hate (the storm) relationship with hurricanes
…we don’t mind getting our hands dirty to dig out tiny pieces of seafood over newspaper
…a biggie–you know the difference between creole and cajun food

I know a lot of people frown upon Louisiana since there are some stigmas about living here, but I really am blessed to say that this is my home. I just love the little things that make Louisiana home, and even if I don’t live here the rest of my life, I know that Louisiana will always be a part of me. Cheesy, but seriously true.

When I was contacted about reviewing a cookbook called “The Southern Foodie“, I just couldn’t resist. The book, written by food/drink/travel writer Chris Chamberlain, features recipes from favorite restaurants in the South and it’s organized by state. Of course, when I got the cookbook, I frantically flipped through the pages and bookmarked numerous recipes.

I was very happy to see Louisiana well-represented in the book, too. There are some great staples in there, like red beans and rice, pralines and bread pudding, to name a few. Besides the classics, I found that there are some fun, out of the box recipes, like barbequed oysters and sweet potato-andouille soup. This book is great for someone trying to get a feel for Southern food, and even for Southerners, it’s impressive how many different recipes the author has in here that I’ve never heard of.

One of the hardest things for me when I find a good cookbook is to choose a first recipe. I actually have quite a few that I want to try, but I was really in the mood to bake, so I decided to make these white chocolate brownies. I love that brownies bake up so quickly and you don’t have to fork out the mixer to make them. It’s sort of dangerous how easy brownies are to throw together and these were no exception. :-) This brownie is a white chocolate brownie base with white and bittersweet chocolate mixed in. Often times, I find white chocolate desserts to be a little too sweet, but I really think the bittersweet chocolate helped to balance things out a good bit. I ended up halving the recipe, since the original recipe makes two 13×9 inch pans worth of brownies (the halved recipe is below). I sent these to work with my husband, and found out that some people enjoyed 2-3 brownies on their own, so this recipe is definitely a winner. Based on this recipe, I can’t wait to give some others a try!

Now, you know I wouldn’t just dangle this cookbook in front of y’all without having a giveaway. :-) The publisher sent me extra books to giveaway to two lucky readers!

Cookbook Giveaway

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