The Ultimate Camping Checklist

The Ultimate Camping Checklist

Ahh, how we love the summer camping trip! Honestly, can you think of anything more delightful than sleeping under the stars? What’s better than days filled with swimming holes and hiking trails? It’s probably the most fun to help the kids toast marshmallows and roast hot dogs over an open fire? And even more enjoyable, imagine being in a place where you wake up and sip coffee on a cool morning in the middle of nowhere. If you love camping like we do here in the Pacific Northwest, you know that a successful camping trip takes a whole heap of planning and prep work. Therefore, we decided to write the ultimate camping checklist – a helpful guide to enable you to camp smarter, not harder. Above all, a successful camping trip is a well-planned camping trip. Feel free to print this out and tailor it to your own family’s needs. Onward!   Information and Safety are the key to camping success! Let’s start with the most important ESSENTIALS. Printed Campground Reservations and Phone Numbers Paper Maps of the Area Field Guides, Guidebooks to the Area Fishing Licenses Emergency Phone Numbers Written Down Emergency Roadside / Outdoor  Survival Kit First Aid Kit Magnetic Compass Sunblock & SPF Lip Balm Insect Repellent   Shelter is the first and foremost order of business, so let’s go over the CAMPING GEAR. Tent Tent Poles & Stakes Tarp (for Ground Cover) +1 Extra Tarp Mallet or Hammer (for Driving the Stakes) Sleeping Bag for Every Camper Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress for Every Camper Patch Kit & Air Pump for Mattress Pillows Extra Blankets...
Get Ready for World Cup Finals

Get Ready for World Cup Finals

Who’s been keeping up with the World Cup this year? There are only 7 games left until the final match, set to play on Sunday July 15th. Who do you think will take it? Will it be a European team, like Croatia, England, Belgium or France, the last remaining Nordic team, Sweden, one of the South American teams Uruguay or Brazil, or the host country, Russia? There is a lot of speculation going on these days, and a lot of people who have seen their teams eliminated (I’m still a little sad about Denmark) have moved on to rooting for one still standing (Heja Sverige! Go Sweden!). No matter who you’re rooting for, these next few weeks are going to be pretty darn exciting. If you’re hosting a Fifa World Cup Finals party, we’ve got some entertaining ideas and recipes (because let’s face it – it’s all about the FOOD!) to make your viewing party especially fun. To help you get ready for World Cup Finals, here are a few tips and recipes. IDEA #1: Charcuterie, Chocolate, Cheese Boards, Fruits and Vegetables — make big, shareable platters ahead of time! They’re easy to assemble, easy to pick at, carry lots of variety for your guests and aren’t totally distracting to eat. We recently saw an amazing idea on BBC’s Good Food Blog – the components on the platters created the flags of the competing countries. How cool is that? IDEA #2: Match the menu to the teams playing! A simple and cute idea is to match the regional cuisine of the teams playing to the food you serve. France? Warm...
Throw the Perfect Outdoor Party

Throw the Perfect Outdoor Party

As the weather warms up and spring turns into summer, those balmy, breezy, perfect summer evenings just beg for get-togethers in backyards and on patios all over the country. Whether you’re firing up the grill, mixing cocktails, putting together the perfect salad or just relaxing with friends in the lounge chairs, it doesn’t take much to throw the perfect outdoor party. Here are a few of our best tips and ideas for making your next patio party one for the record books. 1. Let your guests know what to expect! The best parties are the ones that are the most prepared-for. Write your invitations in a way that makes it clear what your guests can look forward to. “The grill will be firing from 5 – 6pm!” “We’ll supply the food – bring whatever you’d like to drink!” “Flip flops and sunglasses welcome!” All of these cutesy little phrases let your guests know what to expect – that the food will be served at 5pm, it’s BYOB, and flip flops and sunglasses mean it’s a casual dress code. There are tons of examples online for backyard party invitations – find what works for you and tailor it to your own details. 2. Anticipate mosquitoes, bugs and flies. It’s just that time of year! Swatting mosquitoes and batting flies away from our food is a part of summertime life, but there are ways you can make it easier on you and your guests. One of the most important things you can do to your backyard (and this stands whether you’re having a party or not) is to ensure there is never any standing water...
How to Make Chocolate Charcuterie Boards

How to Make Chocolate Charcuterie Boards

Cheese boards and charcuterie platters grace pretty much every party food table these days. Sure they’re delicious, but why not think outside the box and create your charcuterie board out of chocolate? It’s a heck of a lot more interesting than a bowl of candy! We promise your party will be the most memorable one that your guests attend this year! Here’s how to make chocolate charcuterie boards that will be raved over, devoured and talked about long after the party is over. Step One – Choose Your Surface. Slate is a great choice, as it provides a dark surface for the food to stand out, and plus if you want to label anything, a piece of food-safe chalk does the trick. Don’t have a slate? A wooden cutting board, a serving platter of any material or even a cookie sheet will work like a charm. Step Two – Choose Your Arsenal (and by that we mean chocolates). The most important thing to remember when deciding what’s going to go on your chocolate board is this – mix it up, in every sense of the word. Vary greatly between flavors, textures, sizes and shapes. For example, the last chocolate board we made here at GiftTree (sorry I forgot to take a picture!) had Godiva milk chocolate cashews, white chocolate cranberry almond bark, Ghirardelli dark chocolate raspberry squares, Dolcetto wafer rolls, tablets of solid dark and milk caramel chocolate and even some chocolate covered biscotti. Get creative! Milk chocolate malt balls, brownie bites, wafers, chocolate dipped apricots, pretzels… the possibilities are limitless. Step Three – Artfully Arrange & Garnish for Eye-Catchiness.  Unwrap...
Spectacular, Savory Super Bowl Recipes

Spectacular, Savory Super Bowl Recipes

Who’s looking forward to hosting or attending a Super Bowl party this weekend? Even if your favorite team didn’t make it to the Big Game this season (ahem, Vikings) you can still make it a great day by hosting a fun party, serving and eating great food, drinking delicious beverages and watching the two best teams in the NFL duke it out for that sparkly silver football trophy. Speaking of party food, a couple of us at GiftTree got together and shared our favorite sports-spectating salty snacks – below are a few spectacular, savory Super Bowl recipes!   ? ? ? The Best Slider Burgers Ever Makes 24 Sliders 4 slices bacon 1 large onion, finely sliced 2 garlic cloves, minced 3 pounds ground beef, 80/20% Lean/Fat 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce salt and pepper to taste American cheese, sliced to size 24 small dinner rolls or mini brioche buns In a skillet (cast iron is best), cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, removing and placing on paper towels to drain, cutting in pieces to fit sliders. Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan, adding the sliced onion and cooking until translucent and beginning to caramelize. Remove half of the cooked onions and set aside. Add the garlic to the rest of the pan and cook 30 more seconds. In a large bowl, combine the beef, onion-garlic mixture, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form into 24 small patties. Preheat skillet or griddle over medium heat. Fry the burgers for about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, depending on thickness. Turn off the heat, top the patties with the...
Dinner Party Entertaining: How to Be the Host with the Most

Dinner Party Entertaining: How to Be the Host with the Most

Winter is the perfect time to throw a dinner party. When the weather outside is cold and dreary, there’s something so cheerful and cozy about getting together with friends or family, opening a bottle of wine, sharing a meal and a few laughs. But if we don’t take the steps to be prepared, hosting a dinner party or any special occasion gathering can turn into a stressful ordeal before too long. But the good news is, you can still learn how to be the host with the most! Here are some helpful suggestions for home entertaining do’s, dont’s and dinner party tips. First, let’s tackle the food. Do – Plan your menu at least three to five days in advance. From appetizers to desserts, avoid “cook’s block” – you know the feeling – that “what’s for dinner” blank stare? Don’t wait until the last minute! Have each part of the meal planned: appetizers, dinner (sides and main entreé), dessert and beverages. Consider your guests’ dietary restrictions, appetites and palates here, too. Do – Stick with what you know how to cook and cook well – or if you really want to branch out, explore your favorite entertaining cookbooks (like the ones from Ina Garten), check out YouTube channels, entertaining blogs and find easy recipes. Above all, keep the food simple! People prefer simple food, and it’s easier to make. Do – Select a menu that won’t take up all your time. Don’t miss your own party by overloading yourself with complicated recipes or dishes that require a lot of prep-time and a lot of hovering over. Don’t – Stress out! Seriously, try not to...