Saturday, December 24, 2011

I know where Santa is - Do you?

Did you know that Santa has already started his deliveries this year?  It's already Christmas in parts of the world!

Have you found the NORAD Santa tracker yet?  It's become a tradition in our house to monitor Santa's progress across the world.  The folks at NORAD have turned their technology to assisting kids (and adults!) keep an eye on where Santa is at.  It adds a super fun element to the day!  As a kid I remember going out looking for Santa, but now with technology the kids can check in on Santa in their pj's too!

As a parent I love it because they have gone to extraordinary efforts to create videos and other geography lessons and it is educational for the kids as they learn small snippets of information about other parts of the world.  Last year my boys spent most of Christmas Eve checking in on Santa's location.  It was so much fun!

Here's the most recent video of Santa at the Taj Mahal, India.


Have Google Maps on your phone?  You can also simply type in "Santa" and it will load Santa's most recent location.

Thanks NORAD for taking the time to share such fun holiday cheer!  The site can  access here.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Dinner Recipes from Carapelli plus Coupon!

I prefer to cook with Olive Oils rather than butter whenever possible because it's just plain more healthy.  I'm always on the lookout for unique and new recipes to cook with and wanted to share these delicious recipes from Carapelli Olive Oil.  I'll be trying the Brussel Sprouts with Carmelized Onions tomorrow!  Be sure to head here for a special $1.00 coupon on Carapelli 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

Tuscan Roast Turkey

Serving Size: 16

1 16-pound young turkey
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup Tuscan Herb Paste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons celery salt
3 fennel stalks with fronds, rough chopped
3 onions, large dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
2 1/4 quarts chicken stock
3 ounces all-purpose flour

Remove giblets from turkey’s cavity, rinse cavity and pat dry, set aside. Season turkey inside and out with Kosher salt.

Mix Tuscan Herb Paste with crushed fennel seeds and celery salt. Starting at the neck of the bird, slip your hand between the meat and the skin to loosen.  Rub half the paste mix under skin, and rub remaining paste inside the cavity and over the rest of the turkey. Season all over with kosher salt.

 Place two-thirds of the chopped onion and fennel stalks inside cavity. Truss bird.

 Place turkey in a roasting pan. Roast at 400°F for 30 minutes.

 Reduce temperature to 325°F and continue cooking the turkey to an internal temperature of 160°F, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Baste turkey often during cooking with juices from pan. If turkey begins to overbrown, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

 As turkey roasts, simmer giblets (neck, heart and gizzard), the other one-third of the fennel stalk, onion mix and diced celery in 1 quart chicken stock until tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

 When turkey is done, remove from roasting pan and set aside to rest. Degrease roasting pan, reserving 3 ounces of fat to make a roux.

Deglaze pan with a small amount of chicken stock. Transfer stock to a saucepot, and add remaining stock and broth from giblets. Bring to a simmer and degrease.
 
Make a blond roux with reserved fat and flour. Add roux to the liquid, whisking well to prevent lumps. Simmer 15 minutes. Strain gravy through a fine-meshed strainer. Adjust seasoning.


Tuscan Herb Paste
Yield: 2 1/4 cups

3/4 cup Carapelli Extra Light in Taste Olive Oil
1 cup Carapelli Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1/2 packed cup fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
 
Blend herbs and crushed red pepper with light olive oil using a blender or food processor, then stir in extra virgin olive oil.
 
Serving Ideas: Rub under the skin of turkey for Tuscan Roast Turkey. Use to flavor vegetables for grilling and mushrooms for roasting.

 Olive Oil and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Serving Size: 12

10 8-ounce potatoes, (about 5 pounds) peeled and cut in half
3/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup Tuscan Herb paste
1/2 cup Carapelli Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup heavy cream, warmed

Boil potatoes in salted water. When cooked tender, mash potatoes. Mix salt and pepper with Tuscan Herb Paste, olive oil and warm heavy cream. Fold into potatoes.



Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto

Serving Size: 12
2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, blanched, quartered
4 tablespoons Carapelli Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, julienned
1 1/2 ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Trim stem end of Brussels sprouts. Discard wilted outside leaves. Boil in salted water until cooked through (about 7 minutes) until just tender. Shock in ice water. Quarter the cooled sprouts.
 
In large skillet over medium high heat, caramelize onions in olive oil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from pan. Place in bowl, mix with prosciutto.

In the same skillet, over high heat, lightly brown Brussels sprouts. Add onion-prosciutto mix, toss.  Deglaze by adding white balsamic vinegar and scraping bottom of pan. Season with salt and pepper.

*Note no compensation was received for this post - but products were provided to facilitate the review.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Minute Easy Craft Gift #ElmersHoliday #GlueNGlitter #CBias

My favorite presents have always been the handmade gifts, especially ones made by the children in my life.  I love continuing this tradition and having my sons make gifts each year.  One gift I keep coming back to year after year is a tree ornament.  They have a special place in the holiday celebrations, are easy to make and it's a great way to get kids in the Christmas Spirit.

This year I have been super short on time and extra energy so when it came to an easy gift for the kids to make I fell back on my trusted ornament.  I headed down to my favorite Super Walmart (you can follow along on Google+ here).  I absolutely love my local Super Walmart because it's like one stop shopping.  You can get everything on your list and know you are getting the best deal out there.  You don't have to shop around and waste gas running around everywhere to find the lowest prices.

This year the boys and I put together a fantastic ornament that costs less than $1 each, so they are absolutely fantastic gifts for neighbors, family and friends.  They also make fantastic accent pieces on presents!  Simple enough for the boys to make, yet flexible enough for me to make a few more elegant ones.  This project is fast and easy!

For this project you'll need a basic ornament (you can be creative and use any of the wide variety of ornaments, ones that are already glittered to semi-clear ones and the prices at Walmart can't be beat).  Elmer's Glitter Glue Pens (LOVE THESE!), X-ACTO Precision Scissors, CraftBond Dual-tip Flexible Pen, ribbon and construction paper.

Use your creativity and let the kids decorate the ornaments with the Elmer's Glitter Glue Pens, these are super easy for the kids to use!  Once you have created your design (note that the Glitter Glue Pen makes even the simplest "Merry Christmas" look elegant), let them hang to dry (I used the kitchen chandelier as a resting place).

Cut out the bows and glue them with the CraftBond Dual-tip pen and let them dry overnight.  Use the X-ACTO Precision Scissors to cut out a small square out of the construction paper and write to and from and loop on the ornament hanger.

In just a few short minutes you have custom made ornaments that Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles and more will cherish for years to come!

For other great craft ideas you can go to Elmers.com or Facebook here.

*Note:  This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #ElmersHoliday #GlueNGlitter #CollectiveBias #CBias  All of the opinions are completely my own and the products are ones I already loved.  :)


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy Prepped and Amazing Desserts from fresh&easy!

Still planning that perfect dessert for your holiday party but running out of time?  Be sure to stop by your local fresh&easy to pick up some of these AMAZING desserts.  Trust me, they taste just as good as they look!  And yes, that is an absolutely scrumptious mini chocolate eclair hiding in the back...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Free Specialty Coffees at Seattle's Best?

Sometimes I think coffee is the only reason I can get through my day.  A mocha a day keeps the the zzz's away, right? 

For those still doing holiday present shopping (which is most of us, right?) or prepping for those out of town guests be sure to stop in to your local Seattle's Best Coffee (Click here for locations) where you can get a free small beverage with the purchase of a seasonal bag of coffee.  This offer is good through January 3, 2012. 

If you're near the Culver Drive in Irvine location on December 17th or December 18th between 9am and 3pm, be sure to stop in and get a free reusable canvas bag (you can never have enough of these!).

I promise not to tell anyone you got a free Gingerbread Latte, Peppermint Mocha Trio or Sugar & Spice Latte when you bought their present...  :)

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Monday, December 12, 2011

I Cry FOUL at the Spelling Bee

Life has been busy around our house for the last couple of weeks.  Really busy.  Last week my oldest was in the school spelling bee - picked as the top speller in his class.

To say that my husband and I were beyond proud of him for just being in the spelling bee would be an understatement.  We both re-arranged our work schedules to attend.  My son was a pile of nerves that morning, but we did our best to remind him that it didn't matter how he placed - we were SUPER proud of him anyway.  Little did I know I would turn in to one of "those" pageant moms that morning.

He was picked as number one in the order to go and he breezed through the words skating all the way to round four.  What really floored me was the one family that thought it was appropriate to bring their baby to the spelling bee.  I honestly think it was a tactic to mess up the kids.  The kids were nervous enough as it was that one cough, one cry, one random disruption really threw a kid off.  The vice principal had given the audience (including the several classes present) a stern warning about keeping quiet so as not to throw off the concentration of the kids.  I really think he should have directed that at the parents because the kids were great!

The baby cried more times than I could count and the mother had to get up numerous times just to calm the baby down.  The mother was oblivious to the glares from the parents every time the baby would cry.  I feel so bad for the kids who has this baby cry out right in front of them as they are nervously trying not to make a simple little mistake.  Don't get me wrong - I LOVE babies, I just think it is important to be contentious of the event you are bringing the baby too.  This is the perfect example of a time when it would have been better to leave the baby at home with a family member or baby sitter.

I sat there praying that the baby wouldn't cry during my son's turn - knowing how visibly nervous he was.  Round five began and just after the word "witness" was read a woman's cell phone went off.  OMG, my mother bear instinct kicked in.  I could have strangled her.  She darts up and goes running to the back door her phone ringing the whole way.  Seriously people?  Ever heard of silencing your phone?  Think that might be important to double check, triple check, heck even quadruple check that before the spelling bee begins?  Yeah lady, because I took the time to double check mine - it didn't go off during YOUR sons turn. 

My son missed that very word and who knows if he would have gotten it right without the phone ringing.  He told me later that he lost his focus when it happened.

But we are proud beyond belief of how well he did regardless of dumb dumbs who didn't respect the other kids in the spelling bee.

Gotta say... I'm a tad tempted to inform her of how obnoxious that was the next time I see her and anyone who knows me knows that I am one that runs from confrontation!

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