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Two Unique Gifts To Give This Season

I haven’t done gift guides in several years but this year I came across two unique ideas that I think would make great gifts for the holidays.  One is global while the other one is local.

World Vision is a program that focuses on helping and providing countries and families in need items that would be most beneficial to them.  With donations they work towards providing things like clean water, goats and chickens to families, providing education, and food for kids.  There are many categories that someone can choose from and donate to the cause they feel most passionate about.  There are suggestions for donation amounts with examples of what that would provide to someone.  For example, $100 could provide a goat and two chickens to a family which in turn provides a steady supply of food and milk to that family.

Hand carved spice box

They also feature some handmade gifts that are all fair trade and made by those that World Vision is supporting.  Each gift requires a donation but the shipping is free and this donation benefits those that need it most.  This would be the perfect option if you’d still like to give someone a gift they can use all while donating to a good cause.

I was sent this hand carved cinnamon box as an example of the kinds of gifts available.  It is a box made from cinnamon bark with the Asian symbol for prosperity on it.  It also contains 3oz of Vietnam Cinnamon from the Cassia Tree.  Which is a renewable resource providing jobs for families.  There are other handmade gifts available which I encourage you to check out.

This would made a great gift for someone you care about.  It’s unique and is a gift that provides so much to those in need.

Coffee Registry Delivered Coffee

My next recommendation is closer to home and something local that is perfect for the coffee lover in your life.

The Coffee Registry roasts their own coffee beans and delivers them fresh right to your door!  We’ve been using this service for several months and love it.  Depending on where you live in Fort Collins, you’ll either get coffee delivered twice a month (1st and 3rd Wednesdays) or once a month.  Each delivery is different providing a chance to explore different beans, roasts, and country of origin.  Plus we get to support a local business so it’s a win for everyone.

David, owner of The Coffee Registry, also makes custom pour over stands.  There are several to pick from, this one called Curator, just happens to be my favorite.  It has an awesome steampunk quality to it!

Curator Pour Over Coffee Stand by The Coffee Registry

(Image courtesy of The Coffee Registry)

Each stand is made using American walnut base with brass uprights and a glass Hario V60 pour over brewer.

David is providing Food Embrace readers with a bonus pack of 100 filters if you order a custom stand.  Just mention Food Embrace in the comments when you order one!

Support a local business and provide a unique gift to someone by either signing them up for some coffee delivery or ordering them a custom stand!

With many bloggers providing gifts guides to you this season, I wanted to bring you something a little more unique.  These gifts will definitely bring joy to those on your holiday list!

 

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post nor do I have an affiliate with either company.

 

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Resolution To The Max

Scott and Andrea shoes

Have you thought about the new year and formulated a plan on how you’re going to take back and take charge of your health?  I know that right now we’re all focused on the holidays, and cookies, and booze.  Don’t worry I am too!  BUT we also need to look ahead at this brand new full year ahead of us and decide on how to address our health.

Scott and I are committed to taking back our health and getting back in shape this year.  We’ve let it slack for too long for lots of reasons.  And now it’s time for us to step up and make time for us to be healthy and active again.  How are we going to do that? With tons of support!

Scott and I will be supporting each other but I’m also part of a group challenge as well that will be doing daily check-ins and using each other as accountability partners.  We will be doing the new Insanity: MAX 30 program  It’s a workout at home program, so no gym involved and no equipment other than yourself.

The basics of the program are that it’s a 30 minute program 5 days a week for 60 days.  The workouts are 30 minutes long and you push yourself to the MAX until you either can’t go any longer or you’re starting to lose good form.  It’s a cardio HIIT style workout and each day you strive to do better than you did the day before.  Even if it’s just one more rep or one more move, the goal is to do better each day.

Scott and I are so into this and I want you to join us!  The only thing that you have to buy is the DVDs, there’s no other equipment involved. A one time purchase for DVDs that you can use over and over again.

My long time blogging friend, Rose, is running the accountability group.  You can read more about the program and the group on her post.

Some folks have started the program already and others are waiting until after the holidays and starting on Jan 5th.  I want you to be a part of our group!  We all have 30 minutes a day that we can dedicate to our health and well being.  WE CAN DO THIS!

If you’re interested in joining our group either comment below or email me: Andrea AT FoodEmbrace.com and I’ll get you connected with our group!  You’ll have the support and motivation that you need to work through this program and complete it.  We will all be supporting and cheering each other on.

Are you with us?  LET’S DO THIS!

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Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

 

This was hands down the best Thanksgiving we had since we moved to Fort Collins.  Our first year here, I was still getting my bearings around where to shop and find local ingredients.  Plus we had only been here a couple of months and I was still learning about our new city along with missing some things from our previous city.  It wasn’t much of a celebration to be honest.

Last year we were in a brand new house with two new dogs and we weren’t sure how they would handle all the new changes that come with the holidays.  This year we are settled, the dogs are settled, and I’ve got my routine figured out and that meant that Thanksgiving was awesome.

Our fridge is small and is pretty much barely functional.  I mean, as a storage unit, it works properly keeping things cold.  I didn’t think there would be room to brine but Scott worked his magic packing skills and was able to fit two huge bowls in the fridge.  For the turkey, I purchased two breasts and two legs from Whole Foods along with two wings.  The wings I used to make turkey stock and I did that using the slow cooker (more on that in another post!).

I bourbon brined the turkey and we had collards, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and cranberry sauce (new recipe!).  Scott also requested some stuffing this year so I made a small dish of that as well.  Everything turned out fantastic and the turkey was even better as leftovers.

The day was relaxing and warm.  So warm I had to open the windows to let some fresh air in to clear out the steam from cooking!  Most of the day was spent in PJs eating, drinking, and hanging out with the pups.

It was glorious and later we had pumpkin pie for dessert.

I could not have asked for a more perfect day.

The Christmas decorations are out and I can’t wait to unplug for a couple of weeks and just hang out.  Definitely my most favorite time of year!

Tell me about your holiday!

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Creating A Thanksgiving Week Schedule

Thanksgiving 2011

I fully intended on creating a lovely Thanksgiving Schedule in PDF format. One that was easily printable and you could hang it up on the fridge to have on hand.  Well best laid plans and all that.  I tried designing a nice schedule and nothing was working out the way it needed to.  So many days and beers later, here we are.

I am still sharing a schedule with you to give you an idea of how you can plan out Thanksgiving week, it just won’t be all kinds of infographic pretty.  I know that you have also tried to design something using a “user friendly” design program and so I know you can relate to how frustrating those programs can be.

All that said, it’s Thanksgiving week so let’s get in the kitchen and get cooking!  When creating a schedule always think about things that can be prepped ahead and how far ahead they can be prepped.  Veggies can be chopped up early in the week and the pie and rolls can be made early on as well.

Here’s a sample schedule (which is actually my schedule for this week!) to give you an idea of how to plan out the week.

THANKSGIVING WEEK SCHEDULE

MONDAY:

  • Finish any last minute grocery shopping.
  • Put turkey in fridge to start thawing.
  • Make stock.

TUESDAY:

  • Prep and chop any veggies that you will be using (carrots, celery, onions, green beans, collards, etc).
  • Make rolls (if you are making rolls).

WEDNESDAY:

THURSDAY:

  • Prep turkey and get it in the oven.
  • Have a drink.
  • Reheat the collards in the slow cooker.
  • Have a drink.
  • Cook and mash the potatoes.
  • Have a drink.
  • Warm up the rolls (if you made them).
  • Have a drink.
  • Make gravy.
  • Have a drink.
  • When the turkey is cooked and resting, heat up stuffing and green bean casserole.
  • Have a drink.
  • Serve pie after dinner.
  • Have a drink.

FRIDAY:

EAT ALL THE LEFTOVERS WHILE IN YOUR PJs.

Wednesday is a big cooking day when you’ll be doing the most prepping.  Thursday will be a lot more relaxed because most of the work is already done.  All you’ll have to do is cook the turkey, make mashed potatoes, and make gravy.  Everything else is done and will just need to be reheated!

This schedule is just to give you an idea of how you can prep and plan ahead so you aren’t making everything on Thursday.  Time in the kitchen is spaced out over the week which means you’ll be more relaxed on the big day and can enjoy it more!  It’s a guideline and you can adjust it to include the menu items that you’ll be making.

I’ve already got Monday knocked out including last minute shopping!  I headed out early today and the stores weren’t too bad.  Though Whole Foods was starting to get crazy as I was leaving.  I’ve got stock going in the crockpot and the turkey is in the fridge!

Now go and knock out this week like a pro!

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Thanksgiving Planning: Get Those Dishes In Order

Thanksgiving Dinner

Because there is so much prepping and food involved with Thanksgiving, people tend to overlook what items they will need to actually cook and serve the food they plan on making.

With Thanksgiving being a week away, take this time to figure out what you will be using and to plan where it will go.

Sound odd? Let me explain it a bit, this is the point where you want to decide on which baking dish the stuffing is going in, which bowl the mashed potatoes will be served in, etc.  This is especially important for dishes that need to be heated up in the oven.  Once you’ve decided on the dishes, you can play around with placement in the oven and figuring out cooking times.

What goes where in the oven and when does it go in?  For example, stuffing takes longer to cook through than green bean casserole so you’d want that to go in first.  And you will want to make sure the items that do need heated up can share space and all fit in the oven.

Once you have the baking and cookware items picked and you know they will all fit in the oven when they need to, it’s time to move on to the table.  Whether you’re doing a buffet style set up or a big sit down to-do, you need to make sure all the food items will fit on the table.

Pick out what serving dishes you’d like to use for the big day and start arranging them on the table.  Trust me, it’s a lot easier to figure this out when the dishes are empty instead of trying to do it the day of when they are full of hot food and surrounded by hungry guests!

I know, this sounds like a lot of work.  But by tackling these little details before Thanksgiving, it makes the big day run so much smoother eliminating a lot of stress. Once you have the casserole dishes picked out and the serving bowls decided on, you can set those aside so they are ready to go when you need them.

Make a list of what kitchen items you’ll need and then go through that check list and pull all of those items out setting them aside.  Checking items off the list can be done the night before.  When it comes time to start cooking, you’ll have everything ready to grab and go.

Don’t forget that many things can be made the day before so that this will save you even more time on Thanksgiving Day allowing you to spend more time with your family and further reducing some stress.

Things like a roux for gravy or even the gravy can be made the day before.  So can the stuffing and green bean casserole (wait until you heat it up to add the crispy onions).

I’ll be providing you with an example schedule on getting you through the week of Thanksgiving!  Shopping days, when items can get prepped, and what things can get made ahead so keep an eye out for that!

In the meantime, start getting those dishes picked out!

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Brine, Glorious Brine

Bourbon Brined Turkey

A brined turkey is a glorious thing!  It seems daunting but it’s actually very simple to do.  Yeah you’ll need some special equipment and figure out spacing in the fridge but it’s totally worth it!

For a basic brine you will need:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • Water
  • A large bucket

You can purchase a 5 gallon bucket at any home improvement store and they are not in any way expensive. I promise they are budget friendly!  Clean it with dish soap and hot water and then label it as a “food bucket” that way you won’t be tempted to use it for something else and contaminate it.

You’ll need to be able to fit the bucket in your fridge for 24 hours.  If you live in an area where it’s super cold outside (under 20 degrees F) you can keep it outside.  Just remember to keep it safe so no animals are tempted to eat your Thanksgiving bird!

If you don’t have room in your fridge to fit a 5 gallon bucket (I currently do not) and your heart isn’t set on roasting a whole turkey, you can break the turkey down and brine the breast and legs in separate containers.  That leaves the back and wings leftover and they are perfect for making stock!  Most likely that is what I’ll be doing this year.

I love brining so much that I have already written several articles sharing tips that I’ve learned over the years.  Here’s a couple to get you started!

Brining A Whole Turkey (a how to)

Tips on Brining (Including seasonings and liquids you can use in a brine)

Bourbon Brined Turkey because holidays should always include booze.

So don’t be scared, give that turkey a good brine bath this year!

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Our Thanksgiving Menu

We are just a little over two weeks out from Thanksgiving and it’s time to start considering a menu plan!  When I first started making Thanksgiving dinner for Scott and I, it was this huge affair filled with all the typical dishes.  It was way too much food for two people to eat yet I felt like I needed to make sure we had all the classics or else it wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I have learned that Thanksgiving dinner can be whatever you want it to be!  Now I keep things really simple with a turkey and a few side dishes that we really love.

Turkey in  a roasting pan

Turkey will always be on the table for us.  This year I’m not buying a whole turkey but instead will be buying a breast with some additional legs.  My refrigerator is small and can’t accommodate a whole turkey in a brine.  However, I do have a Bourbon Brined Turkey recipe that is fantastic! If you have the space, I highly recommend you brine that bird!

Collards

 

Collard greens are one of our favorite side dishes and I have been incorporating them in to our Thanksgiving feast the past few years.  They can be made in the slow cooker which makes things so much easier. This frees up space on the stove for other things like making gravy and mashed potatoes. Plus they can even be made the day before or cooked in the slow cooker over night so the only thing you have to do on the big day is reheat them (or keep them warm).

Collards provide plenty of leftovers and heck, you can even eat them for breakfast!

Spicy Cranberry Chutney from The Spicy Paleo Cookbook

Cranberry sauce will also make an appearance!  I prefer to have it as a breakfast item but Scott really enjoys having it has a side dish with the big dinner.  We usually have Cranberry Apple Sauce which is super simple and full of flavor.  This can also be made a day ahead and gently warmed right before serving.

If you’re looking for something totally different, Spicy Cranberry Chutney would be a great addition!

Gravy, and stuffing

Mashed potatoes and gravy is a must.  I like to prep the potatoes ahead of time so that all the starch is removed and they become fluffy and creamy.  I also prefer to use yukon gold potatoes because they create a nice buttery color when all mashed up.  I admit that I have been leaving out the stuffing so that I have room for more greens!

Gravy doesn’t need to be time consuming, I’ve recently started making blender gravy which eliminates the need for a roux!  Using homemade stock and pan drippings, this technique guarantees a smooth and flavorful gravy every time!

If you are going to stick with making a roux for the gravy, the roux can be made up to two days ahead!  Just make sure to store the roux in an airtight container.  It will be ready to go when it’s time to make the gravy.  Just gently reheat the roux in a pan and then add the liquid.

We might be skipping the stuffing this year but you don’t have to! Here is a recipe for a Savory Apple Stuffing that is perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

Sweet Potato Pie

Since sweet potatoes are such a staple at Thanksgiving, I tend to use them in a pie instead of making them as a side dish.  This year I’m working on a pumpkin cream cheese pie (recipe soon!) but this Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie is what we had last year.

Our Thanksgiving is super simple, full of flavor, and has plenty of leftovers.  If you are making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or will be creating a meal for a small number of people, this menu is perfect for you!  Most things can be made a head of time leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy the moment of the big day.

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Holiday Season Begins

Whole Roasted Chicken

Welcome to November!  It’s time to fully kick off the holiday season!  This is my favorite time of year, the world seems to slow down just a little bit and it won’t be long until we see our first snowfall.

All this month we will be talking food and prepping for Thanksgiving.  The holidays don’t have to be to unhealthy and full of junk foods.  They can be full of awesome food that is good for you.  Sure you’re going to eat your fair share of desserts but whatever.  Don’t dwell on the bad, focus on the good.

This month leading up to Thanksgiving I’ll be sharing tips and tricks on how to make the big day run smoothly along with sharing a few recipes so that you can have a game plan to create a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  We are going to be keeping things simple! If you have never cooked a big meal like this before, then this series will be perfect for you!  Everything will be easy to make AND a lot of things can get prepped ahead of time leaving you some breathing room on the big day.

Yes it’s going to take some planning and some time spent in the kitchen but having a home cooked dinner is well worth it.  It will be relaxing and you’ll be able to impress your family with the awesome meal you made!

If you have any questions about cooking Thanksgiving dinner or cooking for the holidays, fire away!  I’ll be sure to answer them in an upcoming post!

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Zoodle Love

Lemon parmesan shrimp and zoodles

Heading into the time of limited sunlight and it’s getting harder and harder to photograph food.  I take pictures of the food when we eat it so depending on the time of day this can be challenging.  During mid-day I’m seeing some funky light and shadows in the house.  Once winter hits I’m not sure if I’ll have a spot in the house where I can take photos!  This will definitely be an obstacle to work through this year.

Yesterday for lunch we had Shrimp with Zoodles in a Lemon Parmesan Cream Sauce.  I had been dreaming of shrimp for days and the idea for the sauce was inspired by Inspiralized’s recipe.  The shrimp was seasoned with Flavor God’s Lemon Garlic and roasted in the oven at 400 until they were just done.

Three medium zucchinis were spiralized and lightly heated in a skillet for about 5 minutes.  For the sauce, I used the same ingredient’s in Ali’s recipe with a bit more parm added for an extra salty bite.  The sauce got added at the last minute and tossed with the zoodles.  Shrimp on top and lunch is served!

This totally hit the spot and I have to admit that I am in love with zoodles.  There’s so many things that can be done with them and it makes for a nice change from a typical lunch salad.  Still getting in a good amount of veggies and protein without having to turn to salads.  This was a quick and easy unprocessed meal!

I went to the grocery store and loaded up on all kinds of veggies for the upcoming week.  I have big plans to make some interesting stuff and hopefully I’ll have enough light to photograph it!

We’re almost through with Unprocessed month!  How have you done so far?

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Having An Unprocessed Thanksgiving

Mini Squash

How is everyone doing so far for unprocessed month?  Things have been going well here at the HQ!  Bread products like English muffins and sausages are the only things that we have been eating that are technically processed.  However the ingredients are as clean as I can get with them so I feel good about those choices.  We did recently dine out over the weekend but the food left us feeling blah.  I’m pretty sure that dining out is going to be something we eliminate almost completely at some point (unless we’re traveling or it’s a special occasion).

It’s cheaper to cook at home even when cooking with high quality ingredients.  Plus it’s more satisfying eating a meal that I personally made.

I believe in going unprocessed so much that I want everyone to give it a shot!  If you’re not doing it now, then let’s talk about the holidays and how we can keep the junk out of the house.

While it may seem daunting at first, cutting out processed foods from our diets becomes easier with planning, prepping, and having a well stocked pantry.  That’s the challenging part, adopting those habits and getting a groove with this new lifestyle.

In an effort to help keep everyone on track and staying unprocessed once October is over, I was thinking of doing an Unprocessed Thanksgiving.  Providing recipes, tips, a grocery list, and a plan to help everyone get through the holiday while having an amazing meal that is full of flavor and has no unwanted junk in it.

Does this sound like something that would interest you?  

How about fresh cranberry sauce this year and not something out of a can?  Brined turkey and slow cooked greens?  Fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy made with homemade stock?

Let me know what you think about going Unprocessed this holiday season!