Blood Orange Sangria & 6 Years of Blogging

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This is the time of the year where I eat a ridiculous amount of citrus fruits. Mother Nature was very smart to allow citrus to grow during the cold season, because I eat about 2-3 satsumas or oranges every day to avoid catching whatever tends to go around. At about 30-50 calories each, it’s also a wonderful snack option for me in my calorie counting.

I’ve always been curious about blood oranges, because they are such a gorgeous ruby red color on the inside. The lovely folks at Frieda’s Produce, who I met at PMA back in August, sent me a bag of these oranges to try since the holidays were approaching. Since it was the holiday season, I knew I had to make something boozy. A sangria sounded perfect since I could prepare it the night before, and just bring it over for my family’s party. Super simple!

I ended up adding some blood orange juice to this simple red sangria recipe, as well as a few sliced oranges in the pitcher. It really made for a nice presentation, and I have to admit that the orange slices leftover after the sangria was gone was pretty darn delicious.

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This is just a great drink to bring over for a celebration. Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to throw together and it’s so cute to fill a glass with sangria and add in a few fruit slices. It just makes for a nice presentation, and it’s super fun.

Blood Orange Sangria
Source: adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of fruity red wine (I used Chianti)
  • 4 oz. brandy
  • juice of 2 blood oranges
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 blood oranges, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a pitcher, combine the red wine, brandy, blood orange juice & simple syrup. Stir until well-combined. Add in the orange slices, and place the sangria in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours, or overnight to chill it well.
  2. Serve the sangria chilled. Enjoy!

Since this drink puts me in a celebrating mood, I figured it would be perfect to share with y’all today. Today is my 6 year blogiversary! I can’t believe that it’s been 6 years since I blogged about turkey meatballs, diet coke chicken & biscotti (forgive the pictures). From the bottom of my heart, thank you for every comment, email and tweet. I love getting to know y’all, and I completely appreciate your support, especially lately with my weight loss journey and my upcoming half marathon!

As a thank you, I want to offer you guys a giveaway! One lucky reader will have a choice between a gift card to Target or Amazon.com (e-gift card sent via email)!

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To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter widget below:

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Note: This giveaway is is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until January 23rd at 12:00am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. The winner will be sent an e-gift card for either Target or Amazon (winner’s choice).

Disclosure: The blood oranges were sent at no cost to me by Frieda’s Produce. The gift card giveaway is provided by The Nifty Foodie.

 

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies & A Giveaway

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One of the hardest things about the holidays is facing the scale. I’ve been watching those numbers creep higher and higher, and well….it’s sort of depressing. Usually I can catch myself, and just go back to hardcore dieting. However, training for this half marathon has turned me into a crazy, hungry person. I’m hungry for junk food, too. It’s a real struggle, especially with all of the holiday baking that has been going on in our house!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to review a copy of Southern Living’s The Slim Down South Cookbook. I was definitely intrigued, because I feel like this book (just based on the title alone) totally gets me. Living in Louisiana, most dishes aren’t the healthiest. While I was hardcore calorie counting, I would have one cheat meal a week to enjoy those comforting southern dishes that I missed. With this book, I’m super excited to try lightened up versions of my favorites. No cheat day necessary!

Some of the recipes that stuck out to me are baked cheese grits, buttermilk biscuits, bourbon balls, and baked smokin’ mac & cheese…I mean…seriously? Every recipe (there’s 120 of them) also has the nutritional information below it, and the book is full of tips/tricks for slimming down. There’s also a whole chapter dedicated to healthier eating, and there’s even a 14 day eating plan, featuring recipes throughout the book.

Since I’m all about cookies lately, I decided to make these flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies out of the cookbook first. I was skeptical, because I’ve never made a peanut butter cookie without flour. However, these cookies were fantastic. and at 137 calories a cookie (vs. well over 200), it’s not a bad indulgence at all!

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The generous folks at Southern Living/YC Media are offering a giveaway for a copy of The Slim Down South Cookbook to one lucky reader!

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Holiday Cards from Minted & A Giveaway!

As much as I love Christmas, one thing I’ve always gone back and forth on was our Christmas card. Since it’s just me and my husband, nothing really changes in the pictures from year to year, and we don’t really take many posed photos together. Since we never have a picture of us for a Christmas card, who were we going to feature?

Well, one year I decided to take pictures of our dog, Millie. I wasn’t sure if it would be well-received or not, but people loved them! It became our little tradition. Every year, I found it so fun to put Christmas decorations around her (closely watching her, of course), and take probably 100 pictures, praying that she didn’t move since there was a large treat above the camera lens for her to stare at and drool over (which usually resulted in the perfect puppy smile).

Time to fill my stocking, Momma!

This was last year’s picture. I mean seriously…how adorable is that?

So, this year, when I was looking for Christmas cards, I was hoping to find a card with a more pet-centric message. Usually I’d buy something that said “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” from (our last name) and leave it at that. However, this year, I discovered these holiday cards from Minted.com, and included in that are some cards that are specifically meant for pet photos!

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Christmas Cookies & A Giveaway!

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It’s now socially acceptable to decorate with all of the Christmas things! I just felt like stating that to you guys. :-P

Since it’s now officially the holiday season, I think I’m going to ask a certain husband who isn’t afraid of heights to go in the attic and grab all of the Christmas decor. ::fingers crossed:: I seriously can’t take 3 steps on a ladder without taking deep breaths and telling myself “I think I can…I think I can…”.

I just love making cookies for the holidays. I bake so many for gifts, since it’s always a winner with coworkers and neighbors. I learned a great trick when it comes to baking in bulk for the holidays…make your dough in advance to freeze and then bake them all later. It makes things a lot easier when you’re making dozens of cookies at once. :-)

What also makes things easier while baking is knowing that your favorite recipes will always come out the same when using quality ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that good, quality ingredients really do make a difference in your baking. For example, I used to grab store brand flour, and the results of my baking weren’t always consistent. I really thought it was me making a mistake in the recipe, but when I switched to a bag of King Arthur Flour, my favorite recipes come out the same way every time. I will admit that King Arthur Flour is slightly pricier than store brands, but to me, it’s worth it to use a brand that has such high quality standards when it comes to flour. You don’t have to order their flour online only either…they carry their flour at so many stores now (I recently saw their flour at Walmart for $3.95/bag!). Also, I’ve seen quite a few of their baking products, like espresso powder (which is so hard for me to find anywhere else…is it just me?) and specialty extracts, at Sur La Table. :-)

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Peppermint Swirl Sugar Scrub & A Giveaway!

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**NOTE: This gift is NOT edible. This sugar scrub is NOT for consumption…it’s a bath/body product.**

I just thought I’d get that out of the way, since all of the other gifts in this blog series are food related….this one is not, due to the use of essential oils.

I love this time of the year, but one of the biggest issues I face is how drying the winter is, especially on my hands. I use so much lotion throughout the winter, and sadly, with all of the cooking/baking that I do, the constant hand washing doesn’t make things any better. It’s probably because the winter sucks the humidity out of Louisiana, but I’m always prepared with shea butter hand lotion and some sort of moisturizing scrub. I know a scrub sounds counter-intuitive, but a sugar scrub exfoliates with the sugar and also moisturizes your skin using the oil. It always leaves my hands feeling nice and soft. I thought that it would be a great gift idea to make these for the other women in my family, since we all go through the same thing this time of the year!

When I saw this idea for a Peppermint Swirl scrub on Dixie Crystals’ website, I knew that this was going to be a winner. I just love minty scents around this time of the year, and since I’m making it myself, I’m able to control the scent (which is great, because some mint scents can smell too overpowering).

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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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