Cook-Off Winning Chili Recipes

Cook-Off Winning Chili Recipes

Even though Spring is approaching in just three short weeks, it certainly still feels like we’re in the dead of winter in most parts of the country. When the temperature dips below freezing, the one thing everyone really wants is something warm and comforting for dinner. Soups and stews are high on the list, along with cheesy casseroles and lots of starches like pasta and potatoes. And speaking of a warm bowl of comfort, today happens to be National Chili Day! Somewhere between a soup and a stew, chili holds a special place in the heart of virtually all Americans. The word “chili” is simply short for “chili con carne”, which is Spanish for chili peppers with meat. Most people would agree that chili consists of chili peppers, meat, tomatoes, onions and garlic. But here’s where it gets complicated! Texans (and those in Cincinnati) mainly agree that true chili doesn’t have any beans it in at all, while the rest of the nation pretty much disagrees, using everything from kidney to pinto to black beans and beyond. Then there are all the vegetarian versions. In fact, it might not even be red! White variations of chili have become popular in recent decades. Long story short, when you look at how many different types there are, it’s safe to say that people’s definition of what “chili” actually is – that’s up for debate. Chili Cook-Offs The concept of chili-cooking competitions began in the 1950s in Texas, and soon began cropping up all over the United States. ICS, the International Chili Society, is head of most of the nation’s official cook-offs, with the...
Valentine’s Day at Home: Wine, Music and Menus Volume II

Valentine’s Day at Home: Wine, Music and Menus Volume II

Last year we posted a blog called Valentine’s Day at Home: Wine, Music and Menus and the response was so overwhelming and fun, we thought we have to do a Volume TWO! It can be great getting dressed up, making reservations at a fancy restaurant and spending Valentine’s Day on the town. But these days, many couples opt to spend the holiday at home, especially when there are kids in the picture. When work has been crazy, the sitter is busy, the traffic is nuts and the restaurants are all booked, the idea of staying home, pouring a glass of wine, putting on some relaxing music and eating a delicious meal together sounds more and more appealing. We’ve put together a few menu plans (along with their matching wines and some fun music recommendations) to make your Valentine’s Day at home romantic, memorable and meaningful. After all, it’s not about going out – it’s about celebrating love!   Menu Plan #1 – For the Seafood & Champagne Lovers Pour: Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne. A luxurious, world-famous Champagne that boasts soft white-fruit aromas of peaches and pears and a finish of fresh walnut. The smooth, juicy mid-palate segues to a clean, crisp finish ideal for sipping Play: The Party, Andy Schauf. Bubbly songs full of fun combine with a nice dose of moody to create a playlist that is perfect for a party of two, cooking dinner, sipping Champagne and just being together. Appetizer: French Butter Lettuce Salad, courtesy of Fine Cooking. The lightness of this simple salad makes the perfect starter for the creamy goodness to come. Main Dish: Two recipes from Café Delights,...
Five Luscious Chocolate Recipes for Fall

Five Luscious Chocolate Recipes for Fall

Feeling like every single sweet thing is pumpkin-spiced these days? We feel you. Good news! This Sunday October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Above the caramel, above the peanut butter, above the -dare I say it- *lowers voice to whisper, looks around* pumpkin spice, it’s no secret that chocolate reigns supreme when it comes to desserts and sweets. Of course it’s always fun to put a little twist on your baking to celebrate the current season, so here are five luscious chocolate recipes that are perfect for Fall. National Chocolate Day – October 28   Chocolate Chunk Cinnamon Cookies Cinnamon adds that deliciously warm flavor that’s absolutely perfect for Fall baking. Besides, who wouldn’t love the flavor of Mexican Hot Chocolate encased in a warm, fudgy cookie? Two, please – one for each hand! This recipe comes to us from Love From The Oven.   Tahini & Halva Brownies This recipe is from NPR’s awesome food podcast The Splendid Table, via Yotam Ottolenghi, an incredible Israeli-British chef, bestselling cookbook author and restaurant owner. The recipe might sound a little off the beaten path, but the combination of savory and sweet is to die for. No one, and we mean no one, will be able to resist these. Bring them to Thanksgiving at the in-laws and gain major brownie points! (See what I did there? Eh? Nudge Nudge.)   Chocolate Pecan Pie What kind of recipe blog would this be if we didn’t mention the Queen herself? We all know pecan pie; that divine southern dessert that simply defines fall and comfort. Now add dark chocolate.   Chocolate Glazed Espresso Cheesecake Coffee is...
Why We Gift Wednesday (Fall Baking Edition)

Why We Gift Wednesday (Fall Baking Edition)

Welcome to another edition Why We Gift Wednesday! Each week, we celebrate one of the thousands of reasons that we truly love giving. Whether it’s honoring the relationships that we have, feeling grateful for an occasion or a special time of year, or relishing life’s simple joys, Why We Gift Wednesday is all about giving and generosity – the expression of appreciation for life’s many happy moments. It’s October, it’s Autumn, and that means it’s time to grab our cookbooks and bring out our most comforting recipes! That’s why this Why We Gift Wednesday is all about Fall baking.  Honestly, what’s better than baked delicious things, served warm from the oven? There is something special about enjoying baked goods straight from the oven during Fall and winter. A simple warm cookie can transport you right back to Grandma’s kitchen, your childhood bakery, or maybe Christmas morning. It seems to go straight to your soul as well as your stomach – soothing you from head to toe, especially when you’re sipping some coffee or tea along with it. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned professional, everyone can learn to bake. But it takes time, patience and practice to learn how to bake well.  Within the walls of GiftTree headquarters, you are sure to find plenty of home cooks, bakers and downright foodies (guilty as charged). Many of us are pretty much obsessed with food – from seeking out new restaurants, to sharing recipes, to curating our awesome Epicurean Collection. Therefore, naturally it’s… Cookbook Recommendation Time! The Baking Bible – Rose Levy Beranbaum. The legend herself is back with her most extensive...
Your Labor Day Weekend Party Menu Is Here

Your Labor Day Weekend Party Menu Is Here

Ah, Labor Day weekend. The last hurrah before the school year really gets into full swing and everyone is back to work until the holidays. We’re milking these very last days of summer for all they’re worth with one more backyard barbecue! It’s the perfect time of year to take advantage of all the delicious in-season produce like tomatoes, peaches, pineapple and watermelon in every dish. Here is your Labor Day weekend party menu. Onward!   Menu Item #1: A Hearty (But Healthy) Salad What ever will we do with ALL those bazillions of late-summer tomatoes from the garden? Panzanella, of course! The crispy hearty bread pairs perfectly with juicy tomatoes and the zing of bright basil. You could literally use any tomato you can get your hands on, from Roma to Heirloom to Grape or Cherry – even those big ol’ Beefsteaks will do. There are many variations on Panzanella, but we got this particular recipe from Delish (added a few green chilies) and it’s absolutely wonderful.   Menu Item #2: Bring on the Grilled Meats! We’ve probably filled our bread quota with the baguettes in the Panzanella, so let’s skip it and instead of burgers or BLTs, let’s make these Hawaiian grilled pork kebabs! They’re easy to make and fun to eat – who doesn’t enjoy food on a stick? Our favorite recipe comes from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen – we went a little easier on the BBQ sauce though. The result? Sticky, sweet, garlicky, salty and just perfect for a late-summer backyard party. The guests will be licking their fingers and going for seconds.   Menu Item #3:...
Chilled Soups for the Dog Days of Summer

Chilled Soups for the Dog Days of Summer

Here in the Pacific Northwest this summer, we broke the record for the most consecutive days above 90 degrees. It was hot. Sure, the PNW doesn’t have the humidity of say, Chicago, but here’s the clincher: because it never (ever) gets hot in Portland, virtually no one has AC. So a lot of the things we normally do here suddenly become impossible – and there is NO WAY any of us are going to be turning on the stove or oven to make dinner. Now that it’s late August, what do we do when the mercury is still rising? You gotta think cool to be cool, people! From the GiftTree kitchen, are four perfectly palate-pleasing chilled soups for the dog days of summer. GAZPACHO Just like a great salsa or pasta sauce, the right recipe for gazpacho is a thing of beauty. There are hundreds of variations of gazpacho, but the general rule is that perfect gazpacho should have the right ratio of tomato flavor and a little bit of heat. I’ve aways been obsessed with Le Pain Quotidien’s version – the red wine vinegar, sourdough breadcrumbs and cilantro pesto drizzle make it truly special. If you get the chance to try Le Pain’s gazpacho, make sure they dress it with a garnish of radish, cucumber and mango for you. Trust me. If you want to make it yourself for dinner and avoid a hot kitchen, this Malibu Kitchen recipe is pretty great (especially if you can do the red-pepper-roasting on the grill outside!).   VICHYSSOISE Yesterday was a particularly hot (and smoky, from all the nearby wildfires) one....