Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Event: 7 Days

Oh, how woesome to go out of town and forget your advent calendar.  Then it just sits there on the kitchen table and screams at you in your dreams, "You forgot me.  I cannot give you daily delight from afar!" 

I didn't forget my advent calendar, because it is not tangible.  But I did go out of town and did not realize that I would not have interweb access for days and days!!  Oh, no!

Mind you, I did think about the advent event item I would be posting each day; so I will be making up for it over the next couple of days.  Sorta like I would have done if my advent calendar was all the chocolates for one week in less than ten minutes!

So for 7 days to Christmas, I give you gingerbread house goodness.  I couldn't pick just one so here are a couple of the amazing houses I found online:

I love the rustic roof!!
Pretty amazing display!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Event: 8 Days

We have been on the road for the last couple of days bringing our little one to Texas for the first time - she was very excited when we got out to take a picture in front of the sign just across the border.  As one of my friends likes to call it, we have returned to the "mothership"!  And it feels good, too.

So we always say that we eat our way through Texas when we are here because we just can't get food like that around our house.  So, although it has almost nothing to do with Christmas for anyone else, here is a small list of the food I would like to eat whilst home, in no particular order and with no consideration for caloric intake.  It is my Christmas gift to myself. And if I wrote a letter to Santa, this is what would be on it.

pecan tuile at the Grotto in Highland Village
sausage roll at Donut Palace (I have refined tastes I tell you)
ribs from North Main BBQ in Euless
a cheeseburger from Al's in Arlington
enchiladas from La Calle Doce in Dallas
sunset sauce and lemonade from Mi Cocina
a spicy international from Cero's Heros in Grapevine
biscuits and gravy with sausage from Cracker Barrel
enchiladas from Sylvia's in Houston
chiles rellenos from that place in Plano
brisket from Rudy's
peppermint and cookies and cream ice cream from Braums
Frito chili pie from Stanley's in Wichita Falls
chicken fried steak and fixin's at Babes in Watagua
breakfast tacos at Tito's in San Antonio
kolaches from Busy Bea's bakery
a corn dog from the state fair
pasta at Paesano's on the Riverwalk
fried okra from just about anywhere

Man, if I get what I wish for this year, I am going to have to go on a major diet in January.  One can only hope!!

Don't forget to check out my giveaway and enter to win (you can only win if you enter)!

Advent Event: 9 Days

One of the great things about the holidays is the holiday only (aka limited time) offerings at restaurants and grocery stores.  It is a time to indulge in the "holiday flavors" - peppermint, cranberry, eggnog, and gingerbread, et. al.  The bummer thing is that they are here for such a limited time and there are only so many calories a person can consume during a holiday season.  Here is a small sampling:
McDonalds actually makes a very good Peppermint Hot Chocolate this year.

The snowman one is cute enough to warrant a visit to Krispy Kreme, but I would like to try the Red Velvet Cake donut too!
Starbucks cranberry bliss bars are a holiday staple for some folks.

All the shakes at Chick-fil-A are worth it, but a Peppermint Chocolate Chip one is perfect for the holiday season.
I think one would have to have a death wish to partake in 3 of the 4 holiday pancake offerings from IHOP: eggnog, pumpkin praline, and white chocolate chip mint (wait, WHAT?).  But I might give the plain old pumpkin ones a try.

Apparently the chains haven't gotten around to trying to make something less decadent.  I guess they figure it is the season to do it.  WARNING: badly paraphrased joke ahead: 

It's like, "Baby Jesus was born...where's dessert?!"
Of course if you ever find yourself on death row, make sure that you request opposing holiday seasonal offerings.  Just a little holiday tip for you, no extra charge.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Event: 10 Days

So, we are in the homestretch for the Advent Calendar Event and I have to say I have really enjoyed doing this.  I have enjoyed the few comments I have gotten and have appreciated the feedback! 

Today's Advent Calendar treat is a little something special:  A GIVEAWAY!!! 

I want to really treat my readers (instead of just having cyber treats each day), so I am giving away a $20 e-giftcard to Williams Sonoma!!!  Oh, how fun!  And the neat thing is Williams Sonoma will also send a $5 gift to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.  Yea!

I love a great giveaway, but every great giveaway has some rules.  Here they are:

1.  Go to the other Advent Event posts and find your favorite, then come back to this post and tell me your favorite one.   You must identify yourself in order for me to contact you later, should you win.  The best thing to do is to write your email address like this:  name at (that way you won't get crazy amounts of spam from someone trolling the net, just something from me stating you won!).

2.  Tell your friends on facebook about the giveaway, and earn an extra entry (just come back to this post and tell me about it).  You can do that by posting a link to this page like this one:

3.  Wait until the day after Christmas, when I will announce the winner!

Here's a little bit of help in finding the posts: click on the tag at the bottom of this post that says "advent event" (next to Labels) and it will take you to all off them at once. 

Disclaimer: Williams Sonoma is not providing the prize for this giveaway.

Advent Event: 11 Days

Tonight we went to the annual holiday party at Fixtures.  My husband is in the construction business for large custom homes.  Fixtures is the place he purchases the appliances and plumbing fixtures for the houses he builds.  So basically the evening is a covet fest of things I would have in that dream house we most likely will build when we win the lottery we don't play.

Since I am a foodie, it is hard not to dream every now and then about the kitchen I would have if money were no object.  Drew does this too because he works around this stuff all the time; so together we have great plans for our dream kitchen.  A little ogling doesn't hurt, right?

To feel like a French gourmand.

Or if we felt like the Jetsons (it's a lift oven!).

In my opinion, the most practical option.
Love the hood!
See that didn't hurt at all.  Oh to dream!

Advent Event: 12 Days

Day late, real good nap, so not a dollar short!

I think this is officially the last day you can buy anything online and guarantee it is under your Christmas tree by Christmas morning.  In light of that I thought I would let you know that one of my all time favorite gifts are cookbooks.  I have a small obsession with them and a growing collection. 

One of those deal a day websites, One Kings Lane is having a Kitchen essentials sale today and is offering a great deal on many, many great titles, including:

I know a few Southern ladies who would love this!
For those who love Julia Child and have already done all her recipes.

A cookbook for those who love spice!  Drew would be a happy man.
I have heard really good things about this one this year.
As I was compiling this list, I realized I was doing shopping for my best foodie friend Tara.  Tara, I would buy all of these for you if I could, but I already bought you the best (teacher) least I hope it is something you love.

If you are interested in checking out the rest of the sale, go here.  When you join their site you will save $15.00 off your first purchase.  That makes some of these cookbooks almost free or REALLY cheap!

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Event: 13 Days

I have many a food obsession.  And they change periodically.  But some are time-tested, full-on passions for specific food items.  One of them is olives.  I can't tell you exactly when I fell in love with the olive, but I can tell you what took the relationship to the next level: the relish tray at holiday gatherings.

Every year, a few times a year, my mom would make what she called a relish tray for special occasions.  It had cute little pickles, green olives stuffed with pimentos, black olives, and other stuff.  I never got to the "other stuff" because my brain stopped working after my eyes met olives.  My mom noticed my love for olives and has indulged it throughout my life.  Then, I met my husband.  And guess what?  He was a pickle enthusiast!  So my mom renewed the indulgent relish tray and took it to the next level.  Now literally EVERY time we go over for dinner, there at the end of the table where my hubby sits a small relish tray with pickles (of at least two different sorts).  Sometimes, she even puts out olives for me (oh, how things have changed!). 
So there is something about olives that make me think of the holidays.  And I was pleased to discover that Lindsay Olives is doing something special this year during the holidays for olive lovers and people in need.

They are doing one of my favorite things: a BOGO, with a twist. 

When you buy a can of Lindsay olives and put the UPC code in on their website, they will donate a can of olives to a local food bank!  I love it!  No one should be without olives for Christmas - am I right? 

They are giving up to 25,000 cans of olives and I am going to go get a couple of cans and participate today.  It's for charity.  Pay no attention to the woman with the open can of olives (no utensil, just fingers).

Merry Olive, y'all! Olive Juice.

Advent Event: 16-14 Days

What happened?!?! 

It happens to me every time I start an advent calendar: I start out doing it faithfully every day, and then it hit a wall. 

In this case the wall hit me...came right out and smacked me.  And it was like it was a taunting wall because I was specifically doing a "foodie" advent calendar and blam...first case of food poisoning in my life!!


So while I was miserable the last few days, I did have visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, so here are abbreviated days, with a catch up for today to follow shortly. 

Day 16.  Sugarplums.  I literally had sugarplums dancing through my head, but after I got on the Internet to find out what they actually are, I found out mine were nothing like the real thing - fake sugarplums, I guess.  I was thinking they were something along the lines of a baked apple or poached pear.  Wrong!  I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could find a slow cooker recipe for sugarplums?"  Wrong, again. 

For the uneducated (that was me about 5 minutes ago), sugarplums are a type of candy made from dried fruit (not just plums) shaped into a ring.  Sounds interesting, right? 
So I found this recipe from Betty and think I might just have to try it:  

Day 15. Nuts.  I almost drove myself bonkers (did you see what I did there?) trying to figure out what to do with some nuts I got that no one seems to be interested in.  We hosted Thanksgiving at our house and I thought it would be lovely and somewhat decorative to put some nuts in a serving piece and place a nutcracker (old fashioned, not crazy looking, spooky figurine) next to it, so people could snack before or after the meal.  How many were eaten by the end of the day?  Not a one!

So, we are going out of town on Friday and I am at a loss.  They aren't the kind of nuts you can take with you on the road because they are in the shell and frankly, I don't think I want nutshells all over the car. 
So, my advent calendar treat is a question for you: What should I do with all my nuts?  Should I give them to a neighbor?  Find a squirrel?  Help!

Day 14.  Cooking with Class.  The only event I went out to do whilst sick was the annual open house for my local (and favorite) recreational cooking school, Cooking with Class!  I love this mother and daughter team of entreprenuers! 

Each year they have a Christmas open house and this one was wonderful.  They have food and wine tastings...which I couldn't partake (the aforementioned wall).  And they offer discounts on lots of great stuff.  I needed to pick up a very special gift for someone important, so I made the effort to get down there right when the doors opened.  It was packed and full of happy foodie shoppers - my kind of people!

So my foodie treat for the day is a shout out to my Cooking with Class people!  I love you guys and can't wait to take more classes with you in the future. 

If you are local, truly consider taking a class with them...any class; they are all good.  If you are not local, I encourage you to find a local cooking school and dive right in.  You will meet like minded food lovers and new friends. Oh, and you will get to eat amazing food!

Thanks for sticking with's hoping there aren't any more obstacles to Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Event: 17 Days

Tonight I did a little late night shopping (fueled by a stop at Starbucks to get a hot cocoa) and now that I am home and doing the advent thing...I think it is time for a little midnight snack - holiday style. 
I saw these on one of the home shopping channels and I WANT!

Peppermint Ice Cream from the Pioneer Woman (if only she delivered)
We got a box of this popcorn just yesterday and yeah it is yummy!

And to finish orange.

Yes, that is really the order I would eat all these things.  And yes, I would eat each of these things in one sitting.  This is the reason I should go to bed before 10:30; then I can keep the midnight munchies at bay.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent Event: 18 Days

So I missed doing this last night due to a long winter's nap (I think my body thinks it is is a bear and it attempting to hibernate).  But this is what was on my mind all day yesterday:

Peppermint Bark

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp peppermint extract
6 oz peppermint candies

1. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with non-stick foil; make sure you let the sides overhang so you can pull the bark out when it is done. In a heavy duty zip-lock bag, crush the peppermints
2. In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate, peppermint extract and whipping cream and stir until smooth. Pour the dark chocolate into the baking pan and evenly smooth out. Place in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm.
3. In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Remove the dark chocolate from the fridge and, with a paper towel, blot off any moisture that has accumulated on the top. Pour the white chocolate over the dark chocolate. Sprinkle the peppermint candies over the white chocolate.
4. Place in fridge to firm for about 1 hour. Remove and cut to your desired shape and size. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Recipe and picture from The Hungry Housewife

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Event: 19 Days

Ok, this one is way late in the day, but here it is.

Tonight we went to see our first movie since having our little one (she will be 6 months old on Sunday!).  It is not that we haven't had a babysitter (believe me strangers tell us they would babysit her...yes, strangers...the answer is no); but more that there hasn't been anything enticing enough at the theater to make the effort.  But as a foodie, the enticement is always the food at the movies. 

Popcorn and coke...and a snicker bar...and maybe a few nachos...and maybe a few Sour Patch Kids...and...ooohh, that ice cream sounds good!

What is it about the movies that stirs up the junk food addict in me?  I have actually gone to the movies not because I wanted to see the movie, but because I wanted to sit in a dark room and eat popcorn ravenously and drink a MASSIVE coke whilst thinking no one can see me!

So today's advent calendar foodie treat: permission to let your junk food flag fly!

And the good thing is there are some great movies that come out around the holidays that are just ripe for food pairings.  Here is a sampling:

If only the theater sold a spot of tea and some crumpets to go along with this one.
Only candy at this one (Skittles, Snickers, and a sugar coma) to match the squeaky voices.  You should check out this preview, it made me laugh out loud a couple of times!
For this one, I think I will go to one of those theaters where you can order a meal...hamburger sounds good.
This one has popcorn and a coke written all over it...pure indulgence. But maybe I should have two more things to eat to match the title.
By the way, we went to see the new Muppets movie tonight and I actually enjoyed most of it.  It was a little tedious in parts, but overall an enjoyable flick.  But the popcorn and coke were the best.  Good date night!

What is your favorite food/drink combination at the movies?  Don't worry, I won't judge what you shove in your face whilst you think no one is watching.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Event: 20 Days

I can't believe it is 20 days to Christmas!  It is such a busy time and it flies by so fast!  Here is what is on  the calendar today:

Around here, we often have people over for dinner in the middle of the week, especially around the holidays.  When we do, I am always challenged to come up with a simple dessert to serve along with a simple meal.  It can't take too much time in the day to make, but has to be indulgent (what dessert isn't indulgent?).  This dessert is a perfect candidate for middle of the week entertaining during the holidays. 

Croissant Bread Pudding w/ Citrus Carmel Sauce

Bread Pudding
4 large croissants
1 red baking apple
6 eggs
1/2 c. plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
2 c. half and half
1 orange
1/2 c. pecans chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly spray baker with nonstick cooking spray.  Slice croissants from top to bottom into 1/2 inch slices.  Set aside 16 of the largest slices.  Cube remaining slices and place in bottom of baker.  Arrange reserved slices over cubes in an overlapping circular pattern.
2.  Core and slice apple, leaving peel on.  Tuck apple slices between croissant slices.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and 1/2 c. sugar.  Warm up half and half in microwave (on HIGH) for 2 minutes or until hot.  Slowly add half and half to egg mixture; whisking until well blended.  Carefully pour egg mixture over croissants.  If necessary, lightly press croissants down to coat.
4.  Zest and juice orange (you will need about 2 tsp. zest and 1/4 c. juice); set juice aside.  Combine remaining 3 Tbsp. sugar, orange zest, and pecans; sprinkle over croissants.  Bake 30-35 Minutes or until golden brown and set in center.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Citrus Carmel Sauce
3/4 c. caramel ice cream topping
1/4 tsp. rum extract
1/2 c. golden raisins (optional)
1/4 c. orange juice (reserved from above)

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a Microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30-60 seconds or until hot.  Serve sauce over bread pudding.

The recipe is from Pampered Chef.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Event: 21 Days

Because I love to cook and grew up around those who also loved to cook, I am so excited to be able to introduce my daughter to the joys of making special things for those she loves.  She has already visited me in the kitchen in the arms of her dad and she is showing interest in food...that's a great place to start, I think.

I might be getting ahead of myself here a little bit, but I can't wait to start looking at these things until she is bigger.  So, today's Advent Calendar is Kiddie Kitchen things.  They are great gift ideas for any of those little ones who show an interest in the culinary arts. 

pretend play fruit tray from Melissa and Doug

Kids gourmet play range from PBKids
Babycakes mini donut maker - I know a kid who want this one!

Kid's apron from The Mint Needle on etsy - so cute!
Placemats that teach manners!  Gotta love that!
And lastly, a cookbook for family time in the kitchen
Enjoy cooking in the kitchen with your kiddos...I know I will!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seldom Saves on Starbucks coffee

One of my passions is saving money and I am all the time telling my friends about the great deals I have found (usually a bit too late for them to save too).  So, here is the deal I found for Starbucks coffee for the holidays at Target and Super Target.

Buy 3 Starbucks Coffee bags, Get a $5 Target Gift card.
Buy any 3 Starbucks Coffee products, Get a $5 Stabucks e-giftcard.

Here's how to get coffee on the cheap:

Purchase 3 Starbucks Coffee Bags (10-12oz) at Target ($7.99 each).
Use Maufacturers Coupons found in the paper 12/4/11 ($1/1 and $3/2 Starbucks coffee).
Use Target Coupons found in store (3 $1/1 Starbucks coffee).

Pay $16.97 out of pocket.

Get $5 Target Giftcard at checkout
Submit form for $5 Starbucks Giftcard through this link.

That is like getting 3 bags of Starbucks coffee for $6.97!!  Not bad!

And remember, you can get a free tall drip coffee in store by taking the empty bags in (see offer on bag).  That is another $4.95 in savings! 

The offer at Target is good through 12/10/11.  And the offer for Starbucks is good through 12/31/11.

I am going to check this week to see if the Target offer is also available for the VIA coffees because I love the iced VIA and could use my $5 Target card to make the deal even sweeter! 

Advent Event: 22 Days

Growing up, there were some things that I just would not eat (just like every other kid).  But now some of those things are growing on me and I have learned to appreciate them if not outright love them.  One of these things is the little beautiful cranberry. 

In the last couple of years I have learned that I do not like cranberry juice (still), but I love cranberry soda (go figure).  I also really like homeade cranberry sauce, but still won't touch the canned stuff.  And, shocking to both my husband and myself: our favorite dressing/stuffing for Thanksgving/Christmas has cranberries in it. 

So I thought, for todays advent calendar, I would give those little berries some love.  I short search through the interwebs gave me some really great ideas for how to test the waters a little bit more and possible deepen my love for what I used to hate.  Enjoy the cranberry goodness!

Just like Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars, from What Megan's Making
Cranberry Brie Bites from Recipe Girl
Cranberry Nut Bread from Once Upon a Chef
Cranberry Christmas Cake from Barefeet in the Kitchen

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce from Delicious Shots

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Event: 23 Days

Well with just 23 days left until Christmas, I don't know about you, but I am thinking about Christmas shopping.  We have lots to do before we go to Texas to visit the family for Christmas.  And since I only have a couple of presents picked out, shopping is on my mind almost constantly. 

This year I am so thankful for the internet because it makes it so much easier to window shop, purchase, and even ship gifts to loved ones.  I am also thankful for the new trend in deal-a-day websites (like Groupon, One Kings Lane, and Zulilly).  It seems there is a new one that pops up everyday, each with a little bit of a twist on the deal thing.  My new favorite is Open Sky.

Open Sky is like Twitter and Groupon got married and had a baby and named it Open Sky (sounds almost like a celebrity baby name, huh?).  It combines the deal-a-day format with the Twitter format by getting celebrities and style mavens (called curators) to pick out some of thier favorite products and getting the manufacturer to offer thier followers a deal on the products.   As an added bonus, they often send out coupon credits for anything you want to buy on the site - it is like a deal on top of a deal. There are four different categories of curators: Food, Design, Beauty, and Style.

The food curators are, of course, my favorites.  They include Chefs Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, and Rick Bayless; cookbook authors Lucinda Scala Quinn and Marcela Valladolid; and TV food personalities Martha Stewart, Ted Allen, and Padma Lakshmi.  Every few days they add a new product to their list of favorites, along with recipes and tips. 

So today's foodie treat for the advent calendar is a small sampling from the food section of Open Sky (all for under $100).
A Trio of Maple Syrups
An OCD cutting Board!

Cute Bird plate and noodle bowl
Comfort food bowls

If you like what you see, or are interested in finding some of your own favorites, think about signing up with Open Sky.  When you do, you will get to pick what you want to see and who you want to follow, as well as great discounts on the products they find.  You will also get $10 to spend on your first purchase.

Merry Shopping!

Disclaimer: If you click through the above links, I will recieve a reward for your membership in the program, but I will not be paid any money.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Event: 24 days

When I was a kid, winter mornings meant waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking and coming to the table to find a fresh cup of hot cocoa with lots of melting marshmallows at my place.  My mom made her hot cocoa the old fashioned way: warming up milk on the stove and adding cocoa (not packet hot chocolate), then adding marshmallows just before pouring into a mug.  No wonder I love winter! 

So my foodie treat for the 24th day until Christmas is Cocoa:

The weather is getting cold here (for us...65 is the high today) and so I will be taking the time to sit down after putting the little one to bed to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa. 

Whether you prefer the old fashioned way or the packet stuff, the joy of a warm beverage with milk and chocolate is undeniable.  Here are a few ways to enjoy the day today:

Go all out with a party for hot cocoa enthusiasts:

From My.Creative.Flavors: Mexican Hot Chocolate from a Hot Chocolate Tasting party

Make it at home for you and your sweetie:

From Williams Sonoma, it froths you milk just like the coffee shops.

Or, get someone to make it for you:
Cocoa Trio from Seattle's Best.

Happy Cocoa!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar: 25 days

So here goes on the advent calendar thing:

I have been waiting somewhat impatiently to watch my favorite holiday movie since Thanksgiving day.  It is normal for us to watch it on Thanksgiving night, but I didn't get a quorum on movie watching, so we just looked at Black Friday ads.  Well, tonight I will demand that it get watched.  Or.  I will watch it myself. 

My favorite Christmas movie is Elf!  My niece who has seen it with me a couple times says that I laugh at it every time like it is the first time.  And I do.  It is so classic to me - every single scene makes me smile and it kicks off the holiday season for me in just the right way! 

So, you might be wondering why I am calling this a foodie treat.  Feast your eyes upon this perfect scene:

There you have it, all that a holiday season should have:
Family dinners
the Four Food Groups
and guests that stay too long

Time for me to go pop some popcorn and pour myself a soda; it's 25 days til Christmas!!

What movie makes your holiday season?  Leave a comment and let me know what you will be watching this year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Calendar Event

One of my very favorite things for the holiday season is an advent calendar.  To be honest with you I have not used them very often, but I love the idea: the countdown, the little treat associated with each passing day.  They have a way of making each ordinary day in December something to look forward to and mark as a milestone. 
So this year, I have decided to do an advent calendar of my own for this here blog.  And I thought I would do a foodie one.  Starting on December 1st, I will be posting an item a day that will make a foodie smile and point to the wonder of the season.  If anybody would like to join me, leave a comment with a link to your blog - I would love to check it out. 

But in the meantime, here are some of my favorite advent calendar ideas:
From Family Fun Magazine

From Crafty Nest
From A Little Wonky
From Martha Stewart