Christmas

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweetenTheSeason #CollectiveBias

Pumpkin Spice with Caramel Swirl Cheesecake

When I moved to the Chicago area I had a few worries. The main thing was meeting new people and making new friends. Luckily I had some amazing friends from my teen years already living here. In fact I moved in with one of them! Even luckier (for me at least) my new roomie doesn’t know his way around the kitchen that well so I get to do the bulk of the cooking and baking.

I know to some that wouldn’t be so much of a good thing, but for me it’s amazing. I’m the happiest when I have people to cook and bake for, it’s where I find a lot of my pleasure in life. I’m by no means the best but I like to think I’m pretty darn good. Something else I’m pretty good at is finding shortcuts in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook and bake I don’t always have the time to prepare everything from scratch.

Kraft Holiday Bake Center

With the holidays quickly approaching I have been looking for a happy balance between being in the kitchen and being with friends. The Kraft Holiday Bake Center at Walmart does a great job of making that happen in a budget friendly fashion. All of the necessities for holiday desserts are there with some extra goodies all at affordable prices.  The Bake Center is actually what inspired this recipe that I’m sharing today. It’s amazingly simple and virtually foolproof – anyone can make it and the beauty is there is no baking involved!

Kraft Holiday Bake Center

I picked up some of the necessities while I was at Walmart, came home, and whipped up this Pumpkin Spice with Caramel Swirl Cheesecake.It wasn’t complete until I added the white chocolate drizzle on top; then it was perfection.

Pumpkin Spice with Caramel Swirl Cheesecake with White Chocolate Drizzle

The first thing I did was melt 1/3 cup of Kraft Caramel Bits in a double boiler.

Melt-Caramel

While my caramel was melting I softened 8 oz. of cream cheese in the microwave then blended that with 1/2 cup of milk. Then I added a box of JELL-O Pumpkin Spice Flavor Instant Pudding. I whisked that all together with another cup of milk.

Cream-Cheese

I poured the mixture into a prepared graham cracker crust and swirled the melted caramel through the cheesecake. Then I put that in the fridge for 2 hours to firm.

cheesecake-Swirly

Once the cheesecake was firm I melted 6 squares of BAKER’S White Chocolate (in a Ziploc bag) in the microwave. I used 30 second intervals, squeezing the bag to help it melt during intervals. I cut the tip off of the bag and drizzled the white chocolate all over the cheesecake. I put the cheesecake back in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so the chocolate could settle and voila.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake White Chocolate Swirl

That was it, if it sounds simple it’s because it is!

This is one of my creative and easy recipes using the Kraft Holiday Bake Center as inspiration, what ideas do you have?

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The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free

The holidays are filled with memories just begging to be captured on film, or memory cards rather. With so many advancements in digital photography it can be somewhat painful to even try to keep up with the times. That is why I like to choose cameras that will grow with me until I am ready to take the next leap. My current camera is a Canon Rebel T4i. I have had it for a year and am still in love with it. I have been eyeing some other cameras lately though, as I am considering taking that leap towards a new camera. At least a new lens if nothing else!

Canon Holiday ImageWhen I was first shopping for a dSLR camera I learned that there are 2 main groups. The Canon group and the Nikon group. I immediately gravitated towards the Canon group and my first ever DSLR was a Canon Rebel T3. About a year later was when the T4i came into my life. And here we are, yet another year later and I am ogling the Canon Rebel T5i and all of her gloriously awesome features.

Canon Holiday Image 2Off the bat the promise to capture Hollywood caliber full HD video caught my attention. I have been dying to start some Youtubing and this sounds like the camera to have to get that started. THe continuous autofocus while taking HD video is a nice bonus.

The 3″ vari-angle touch screen makes navigating a breeze and the 18.0-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor ensures vivid, crystal-clear images.

Holiday Tree 2014_27Best Buy is the ultimate destination for the latest cameras to capture your holiday memories. The Canon EOS Rebel T5i is one of the best-selling DSLRs. This camera makes advanced photography easy and fun, and gives you exceptional image quality, along with a host of features to enhance your creative expression.

HOLIDAY_BBY_0

Save $150 on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i at Best Buy*. Visit Best Buy to learn more. *offer valid 12/7-12/20

 

2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Homemaker

 

1. Kanata Home Cabin Throw – The only thing better than curling up in front of a fire is having an amazing throw with you. This gift will be the best ever – guaranteed (by me). Read the review here and shop here.

2. Charles Viancin Winterberry Silicone Lids – Help keep food fresh and perfect with these festive lid covers. Read the review here and shop here.

3. Ball Drinkware – Help serve up the masses with nostalgic drinkware fit for anyone. Don’t forget the lids and straws while you are shopping. Read the review here and shop here.

4. Cuisinart Automatic Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker – Ice cream is great any time of year and it is even better when it is homemade. Do it right with this amazing ice cream maker. Read the review here and shop here.

5. Redbubble Wall Art – No home is truly a home without personally selected wall art. Do it up big this Christmas with quality art prints as a gift idea. Read the review here and shop here.

6. Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker and Hot Shot Station – The side by side compartments makes this the perfect breakfast machine. Instant oatmeal or anything else needing hot water is readily made with the hot shot station. Read the review here and shop here.

How much do you love winter flavors? If your answer was less than “a lot” then let’s chat afterwards. Everyone else: we have found the Winter Popcorn Utopia. The Holiday Mix™ was sent (for review) in a red and green tin that inconspicuously hid the mounds of wintry goodness inside.

Inside was, and I kid you not, a bottomless pit of Garrett Popcorn’s Gingerbread CaramelCrisp® and creamy white chocolate covered CaramelCrisp® popcorn. Popcorn that was so crispy despite the thick coatings of goodness that enveloped them. Popcorn that became a community expectation at first bite.Several of my friends tried this popcorn. Only one of those friends claimed to not like it (but even he went in for seconds… and thirds.)

Garrett Popcorn Holiday Mix™I can understand not liking it at first if the Gingerbread CaramelCrisp® is eaten alone. The spice flavor can hit hard if you are not expecting it. But once you’ve realized “Hey, there’s gingerbread here” then it is time to go in for more. Mix the gingerbread with the white chocolate covered CaramelCrisp® popcorn and it is like your tastebuds died, went to yummy heaven, and were eternally frolicking. Maybe that isn’t descriptive enough, but it is totally how it felt.

Garrett-Popcorn-Holiday-Mix#U2122-ReviewSo, this popcorn is from Garrett Popcorn. They have been in the yummifying of popcorn business since 1949. That would explain how awesome their popcorn is – they have definitely perfected the method. They have so many flavors that are handcrafted to perfection I couldn’t even begin to list them all here. They have shops scattered around the country and you can use their shop finder tool to find one near you.

Garrett-Popcorn-Holiday-Mix#U2122-You definitely need to order some of this popcorn. Your guests will love you for it and with the ability to create your own tin you will be more than happy with what you get. In the meantime be sure to connect with Garrett Popcorn on their social media channels for all of their holiday goodness.

Whether you are racing to find a last minute gift or the perfect present for someone special a personalized gift basket is an awesome choice. They can be put together in a few minutes or a few weeks depending on you. What you put in them is not as important as the fact you took your time to make it. Your blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively…preferably) go into the creation of the perfect gift and that goes a long way.

How to Create the Perfect Gift Basket with Gilchrist & Soames

Now, choosing what to put in your gift basket doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are a few basics that should help you to get started.

Basics of a DIY Gift Basket

Bath & Body products are perfect gift basket material. Everyone {hopefully} uses them and with such a huge selection to choose from you can add your personal touch. Recently I was introduced to a great source of bath & body products – Gilchrist & Soames. I have seen the brand in a few luxury hotels and fell in love with them immediately. Gilchrist & Soames sent a few sets to help us get inspired for this post and inspire they did!

Gilchrist & Soames

I’m particularly in love with the London Collection Shower Gel/Body Lotion Set. The smell is clean and complex and so intoxicatingly delicious I can’t get enough of it. The shower gel leaves a faint aroma behind while the lotion perfectly accentuates it.

Closely following in favorite status is the Essential Elements Wake-Up Rosemary Shower Gel/Body Lotion set. It is absolutely perfect for this time of year since mint is the predominant smell. The slight hint of rosemary adds a savory afternote that just screams fall. This is my early morning bath & body choice for the energy burst I get from smelling it.

Next up we have the Bee Kind Shower Gel/Body Lotion set which is a splash of citrus with a twist of herbal (fresh lemon verbena fragrance and extracts of honey and certified organic lemongrass and chamomile). It’s another eye-opener that is perfect for morning time when you need a little pick-me-up.

Finally there is the Spa Therapy Shower Gel/Body Lotion Set. Grace fell in love with this one and staked her claim immediately! This set contains Japanese sea fennel and reminds me of a day at the beach. It smells clean and open without being overly scented.

Gilchrist & Soames

Each set comes in an organza gift bag which makes it easy to add to a gift basket. The lotion and shower gel in each set truly compliments each other. They moisturize the skin and leave it feeling fresh and clean while leaving an amazing smell that lasts for hours. You can find even more great collections from Gilchrist & Soames on their website – check it out.

Gift Basket Basics

Now that you have the bath & body items for the basket it is time to fill in the spaces. This can be done with candies, trinkets, gift cards etc… You don’t need to spend a lot on the fillers. I think buying a few wash cloths, rolling them up, and tying them off with a bow would be a great way to bring the package together. Add in a candle that compliments  the smell of the bath & body products and voila – the perfect DIY Gift Basket.

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