Mama Gift Guide

Monday, November 23, 2015

Believe it or not, Christmas is RIGHT around the corner.  I have just scratched the surface of my shopping and I have got to get my rear in gear!  I love a good gift guide and so I figured I would kick things off with what's on my Christmas list...hint hint right? ;) 
From left to right:

1. Zella Live In Leggings.  I have heard the are THE leggings to have.  They are great for the gym but also for wearing out and about.  I NEED a pair of these bad boys!

2. Beautycounter's Butter and Sugar Body Collection. Two of my favorite products, the Lustro Sugar Scrub is like a mini spa treatment with essential oils, including lemongrass (YUM!!) it exfoliates the skin while leaving it moisturized.  The Body Butter is ultra hydrating but not greasy.  The perfect winter duo.

3. These Little LOVE Notes from Tracee Vetting Wolf (who just happens to be my very talented cousin) are about the cutest things ever! They are the perfect size for writing a little something and giving/sending to someone to let them know you are thinking of them!  We are collaborating and you can win a set of ALL of her Little LOVE notes! (details below!)

4. Glide-A-Scoop Ice Cream Tub.  I have had my eyes on this container for months!  I love to make home made ice cream and sorbet and this tub has great review!

5. This Sota Crew Neck Sweatshirt screams winter and cozy does it not!? I bought my husband shirt and hat from the Sota Clothing Company and was super impressed with the quick shipping and quality of the clothes!

6. Everyone needs a winter beenie and this one from H&M is adorable!

7. I have been reading some concerning information about chemicals in candles and air fresheners and have been on the lookout for safe options.  I found these from Candelles and the scents sound fantastic! I will take one of each, thank you!

8. I am a big fan of vests and this one from Athleta looks like the perfect weight for layering from fall to spring!

9. Lastly, a mama can never have too many yoga pants #amiright?  These, also from Athleta, look so comfortable yet polished.

And on to the GIVEAWAY! I am so excited to be collaborating with my sweet and talented cousin, Tracee.  She published a book in October and most recently released her Little LOVE notes.  Tracee and her husband have a little boy and every day she creates a little love note and tucks it into her son's lunchbox.  She has been posting them on Facebook and Instagram everyday and people have been asking to purchase her little notes for themselves.  Lucky for us she recently had them printed for the masses and they are for sale on her site! At $6 for a set of six, they are incredibly affordable and perfect for a hostess gift, stocking stuffer or a little something for yourself.  They are packaged so beautifully, ready to give as soon as you receive them!

Tracee has given me one of each of her sets for a giveaway! Enter using the widget below

 The giveaway goes until midnight on Saturday, November 28th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and a Calphalon Knife Giveaway!

Monday, November 2, 2015

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Calphalon.  I receive product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation. 

I was recently approached by Influence Central to review a set of the new Calphalon Self-Sharpening Cutlery Set AND host a giveaway!  Of course, I said, "You know what, I don't like nice knives and giveaways on the blog are a real bummer but, thanks anyways!"  JUST KIDDING! I JUMPED at the opportunity and today, I am bringing you the goods!  

We registered for a very expensive set of knives for our wedding and we have been pretty pleased with them but let's be honest, they aren't as sharp as they once were.  I am protective of those babies since they were so expensive but also too lazy to get them sharpened.  Kind of an issue.  With these Calphalon Self-Sharpening knives, that will not be an issue!  This set has SharpIN Technology which consists of ceramic sharpers that are built INTO the the storage block to automatically sharpen the knives with everyday use which ensures that every time a knife is used it is automatically sharpened to the correct angle!  How cool is that!? A lazy girl's dream I tell you! 

These knives are made from high-carbon, no stain forged stainless steel and feature full tang construction and a comfortably balanced, triple-riveted handle.  Basically they are super nice, will last a long time and feel REAL good in your hands.  

I gave these babies a test drive while making one of my favorite cold month meals: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.  Holy SMOKES you guys, this stuff is GOOD.  Like warm your heart and soul good!  There is quite a bit of chopping so I thought it would be the perfect time to try out the knives.  Follow along for the recipe and scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY! 

 Start by seasoning your chicken breasts or thighs on either side.  Pop them into a Dutch Oven (or large stock pot but a Dutch Oven is GREAT to have for this recipe) with a little oil and cook them just until they are browned.
 While the chicken is cooking, get to work on your veggies.  You will need to dice your bell pepper.

Check out this handy video from Calphalon that shows you how to properly dice a bell pepper! You will also want to dice your onion, celery and mince your garlic so it is ready when you need it!

After the chicken is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate for the time being.  Cut your sausage up into rounds then cut the rounds in half. Pop it in the pan, just until it is browned.  Remove it and place it on the same plate as the chicken.
 Now you need to work on the roux.  This is what gives gumbos such fantastic, deep flavor.  It will start by looking boring and weird, smelling a little like homemade play dough.  But, be patient and this will rock your world.  You MUST keep stirring, and stirring, DO NOT leave the stove or you will have a burnt roux and a sad heart.
 15ish minutes later you will have this golden color. Beautiful.
 Next you will want to add in the garlic and tomato paste.  It will look weird.  That's okay, it will come together quickly.
 While whisking, pour in the chicken broth until there are no longer clumps of the roux mixture.  Add in the spices.  Oh this smells heavenly.

Let this simmer, uncovered on the stove for at least an hour, I did mine for two hours while the baby napped (for 1.5 hours) and I napped (for 45 mins) of this process :) #sundaying

 After it has simmered, remove the chicken and shred it.  It will be incredibly easy to do, I just smoosh it a bit each way with my tongs and it shreds right up.
 Return it to the pan and give it a good stir.  Good Lord, look at that lusciousness! Silky, spicy, smooth perfection.
 Serve it along side fluffy rice.
 Seriously, this recipe is ah-mazing.
The best method is to scoop a bit of rice, then sink it into the gumbo.  Heaven I tell you!

Our little 14 month old gobbled this up as well! I do have to say it is pretty spicy but our girl LOVES the spice so it was perfect.  Adapt it to the taste of your family by adjusting the cayenne pepper and Cajun Seasoning!

Now, onto the GIVEAWAY!

Who wants to WIN a full set of the new Contemporary Self-Sharpening Cutlery Set!? I have a feeling at least a few of you do!  Well, it is VERY easy.  Just use the widget below and if you have any trouble, email me at :!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run starting today (November 2nd) through November 7th.  Good luck!!!!

**Contest entrants are only eligible to win once per sweepstake, per household as part of our campaign sponsored by Influence Central.**

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

6 Tablespoons +1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
14 oz smoked sausage, sliced into half moons
4 chicken breasts or chicken thighs
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
6 tablespoons flour
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 celery stocks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
7 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, optional)

Start by heating 1 teaspoon of oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot on medium-high heat.  Sprinkle your chicken with 1 teaspoon of the Cajun seasoning on each side.  Place in the pot, cook on each side for about 3 minutes.  Once browned (does not need to be cooked through--the chicken will fully cook while simmering in the gumbo), remove and place on a large plate.  Put the smoked sausage into the pan and brown, should be about 5 minutes.  Remove the sausage and place on the plate next to the chicken.

Remove the pot from the heat for a few minutes to cool--DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  Place back on medium heat, add 6 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle in the flour.  Whisk CONSTANTLY until the mixture is a dark caramel, this should take about 15 minutes of babysitting and stirring.

Once your roux is pretty and golden brown, add in the bell pepper, celery and onion.  Cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so nothing sticks/burns.  Add garlic and tomato paste, sauté for another minute.

While whisking, pour in the chicken broth.  Scrape any bits off of the bottom and be sure to stir until there are no lumps of roux.  Add in the spices: remaining Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, paprika and cayenne pepper along with the chicken and sausage.  Turn the heat up and bring to a boil, all while stirring.  Once it comes to a boil, let simmer on low heat, uncovered for at least an hour, 2 hours is best!  Remember to keep an eye on it and to keep stirring.  It does not need to be stirred constantly but probably every 15 mins or so.

Once the gumbo is done simmering, remove the chicken, shred it and return it back to the pot.  Give it another good stir.  Remove the bay leaves and serve with cooked white rice.


So good.

Recipe slightly adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats

**DISCLAIMER: Yes, I did receive a set of knives and a promotional item for my time working on this post.  But, I do actually like them and as always you cannot buy my love, baby.**

The BEST Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I don't even know where to start with this one.  Honestly, this could be my favorite recipe on the blog to date.  I have made no less than 6 loaves (and 1 batch of muffins) in the past 3 weeks.  I even ordered a set of loaf pans so that I could evenly bake two loaves at the same time.  #multitasking

This recipe is the perfect combination of sweet but not too sweet, incredibly moist with a good amount of spice!  We are absolutely obsessed at our house.  Addie gobbles this down by the slice and asks for more repeatedly!  Which, let's be honest, is the cutest thing ever.  I used coconut oil and there is so much pumpkin in it that I would call it semi-healthy!  

I would highly HIGHLY suggest making this ASAP.   

The BEST Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread 

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (which is 1 15 oz can) 
1/2 cup vegetable, canola or melted coconut oil 
1/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional but delicious) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place your rack to the bottom 1/3 of the oven so the top of the bread doesn't get too dark. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.   

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl with a whisk.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugars, pumpkin, oil and orange juice.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix together with a spoon or spatula, just until combined.  There will be lumps, do not over mix.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips, if you are using them.  

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 60-65 mins (mine always bake up perfectly at 60).  Halfway through the baking process, loosely cover the bread with tinfoil to prevent the top from getting too brown.  The bread is done when you insert a toothpick in the center and only a few moist crumbs are on it.  

Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan.  I keep my bread in a zip top bag, on the counter and I hear its good for 10 days.  It has never lasted that long in our house!  It also freezes like a dream, wrap in plastic wrap, tin foil and place in a zip top bag.  

This recipe also makes fantastic muffins.  Bake at 350 for 17-18 minutes. 

Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs