Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ranch Lovers Potato and Leek Soup #HiddenValleyGFChallenge

I work in the Toy Business, so basically October to December I am running around non-stop. Add into that Family Christmases, Birthdays (6 of them) and holiday parties. Either I'm at work, or I'm out running errands, buying gifts or baking. The last thing I want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen making meals on the weekend.

Enter Hidden Valley Ranch - last month they asked that I try out their new GLUTEN FREE dressings. First, who knew that Ranch dressings had gluten in them? Second, I love Ranch to dip Pizza, Veggies, Fries in, so I wanted to give it a shot. They very generously sent me 3 bottles - regular, 3 cheese and J's new favourite - SPICY (that bottle didn't last long).

Anyway, the challenge is to created a gluten free recipe using their ranch dressing. I've spent the better part of the month trying to come up with something unique, yummy, easy and BIG so that I could make multiple portions to eat over the week.

Today, I was sitting watching Ree Drummond make a potato soup for the freezer and it hit me...why not try a Potato & Leek Ranch Soup? Sounds kind of weird right? Never fear, I wouldn't dare lead you astray. I combined a variety of ingredients (including LEEK which I've never used before) with the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in the hopes of creating a hearty, savoury soup. Guess what? This soup is SO GOOD!! Warm, comforting, easy & loaded with veggies! Plus it makes enough for about 6-8 portions, so I can freeze a bunch for later this week!

 Ranch Lovers Potato and Leek Soup
inspired by Ree Drummond

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 large red skin potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
2 leeks, white parts only halved & sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, halved & thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 cups half & half
3/4 cup Hidden Valley Ranch
3 tbsp Franks Red Hot (optional)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Shredded Old Cheddar


In a large stock pot, add the cauliflower, potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then let simmer on low heat until cauliflower and potatoes are soft.

While the potatoes and cauliflower are cooking, chop and peel your leeks, onion and carrots. Melt butter in a saucepan and add veggies. Cook on low until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Once the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, mash them together with a potato masher. You still want there to be a little "chunk" left, so don't puree them. Once all mashed together, add in the veggies, cream, ranch, salt & pepper and Franks. Stir together and add back to heat. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. When soup has thickened (slightly) remove from heat.

Shred some old cheddar on top if you want an added kick and serve!

Again, I know this sounds weird (Ranch Dressing in Soup?) but I promise you, it's absolutely scrumptious!

If you love Ranch (like J and I do) I highly suggest you check out the Hidden Valley Ranch Facebook Page - TONS of awesome recipes to try!

*Disclosure - I was compensated to write this post, but all opinions are my own. Also, this recipe is actually REALLY good. It sounds weird, but the soup is amazing!*

Monday, 24 November 2014

Some of my FAVOURITE Gifts to Give this Year

Well Friends, it's that time of year! CHRISTMAS!!!!! I frigging LOVE Christmas. I love the build up, the music, the parties, buying gifts...all of it! However, I find every year it gets harder and harder to give GREAT gifts. Let's face it...we're in a time where if you want something, you go out and buy it. Sure, there are a few things that people wait on, but those aren't thins I can afford to give them (no matter HOW amazing a Black Friday deal is!)

So, what I've decided to do this year, is put together a list of some of my favourite things to give/things that I'm giving this year. I promise this list is MUCH more affordable than Oprah's.

Disclaimer - this post was written completely of my own accord. I haven't received anything to write this post, I purely did it to tell you about some things I love and am excited about.

Chic Tags
Chic Tags 
I first came to know about Chic Tags through a friend of mine. I saw some of the beautiful things she had done and fell in love. Then, a short while later, I recieved something from Chic Tags as a gift from a friend and I was SOLD! I've been stalking her site from quite some time now and just recently settled on a piece (I can't tell you what in case someone is reading and sees this!) but I can tell you that it looks beautiful. These personalized pieces are fantastic for Mom's, Dads, ANYONE really. I highly recommend her product.

Available Here

So, I've been following the Clippo site now for about 3-4 years. I absolutely LOVED the product, but I never had anyone to but them for (and I'm not really sure J would want mitten Clips...even if he needs them!) In any case, Alex (the owner) had to shut down the site for a bit, but recently started back up again and I'm in love with EVERYTHING...seriously. Look at some of these...

$14 - Available Here

Mitten Clippos $14 - Available Here

Card Wallet $15 - Available Here
There are things for everyone & great shipping offers (if you're local, it's FREE!) Plus, you can feel good knowing, you're buying something local and from an outstanding lady!

CoreEssentials Fitness
You may or may not have heard me harp on before about how much I love my friend Anne. Anne is the one behind me running my first half marathon, getting my Zumba Instructors License and helped me find joy in exercising. Recently, I was reflecting on this and thought - what a great Christmas Gift for the person who has everything? Something to use in the New Year when you feel like your pants don't fit & you want to start fresh. I also promise you, one class with Anne & you'll be hooked - whether it's Pilates, Boot Camp, Tabata...whatever. I highly recommend a class pass! If you're interested, you can reach out to her on her Facebook Page!

If you're not local to CoreEssentials Fitness - Try searching your area for a unique & different exercise class. Maybe Hot Yoga or Pole Dancing (yes, it's a thing & yes, it's a lot of fun) or an Outdoor Boot Camp (if you're somewhere warm). This sounds cheesy, but the gift of fitness is a pretty amazing thing. Plus, while you're at it, pick something up for yourself to try in the New Year!
Baked (or not yet baked) Goods

Bakery Charms
Okay, I am certifiably OBSESSED with this woman's work. I found her on Instagram about 6 months ago and I haven't turned back since. This lovely lady resides in Hawaii and hand makes ALL of her beautiful charms. Anything from Cake slices, Macrons, Cake Pops to a BANANA SPLIT and Cupcakes...I could go on. I'll show you a couple pictures here, but to really get the full effect, go follow her on won't regret it! Here are a couple of my faves:

Cake Pop - Available Here
Belgian Waffle - Available Here
And my personal favourite...

Coffee and Donut Earrings
Coffee and Donut Earrings - Available Here
Believe it or not (and most of my friends probably won't believe this) but I LOOOVE calendars. At any given time, I probably have 5 or 6. Here's the thing...I write down differnent things on different calendars...and then forget half the things I'm supposed to do...SO, for the unorganized (or UBERorganized) friend in your life, enter Erin Condren. Her life planners and pretty much porn. They're well thought out, beautiful colours and you can personalize them. Now, they aren't cheap but considering they will help keep you (or your friend/mother/significant other) sane for one whole year...$50 is a small price to pay.

I love them all!
Available Here

THEN, we have gifts for people you want to give a little something too, but don't neccesarily want to buy anything...(this is where I shamelessly promote some recipes on my blog)


The beautiful thing about food gifts, is you can make a batch and divvy up into a few different gifts. All you need is some cello, some ribbon and BOOM you have a gift.

Here are some that I enjoy giving:

Candy Cane Fudge

EggNog Truffles

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

Another amazing idea (found on Pinterest, obviously) is to give a batch of FROZEN dough. That way people can save these treats for later (instead of feeling like they have to eat them right away) and they can bake the whole batch or one at a time!

Cookie Dough Label jpg
From Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Now, if you're looking for something personalized & unique I suggest you check out Etsy (I have already bought 3 gifts on there). I could get lost on that site for days! Plus, I love that when you buy something from that site, you're helping a small business grow.

For cannot forget about your furry, four legged friends. Check out this adorable dog collar from Canine Designs:

Christmas Dog Collar, Santa  1 inch wide, adjustable
Available Here

OR *cough* for the baker in your life *cough* a little something special for them to look at while baking some amazing and delicious treats for you........

Kitchen Mixer Decal - Subway Vinyl Decal Kitchen Aid - Baking Cake Dessert - KitchenAid Mixer Sticker - Kitchen Aid Decal - Cuisinart Decor
Available Here
Finally, if all else fails...go to"Gifts" Board on Pinterest and find that perfect little something!

What are gifts that you are excited about giving this year? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Happy Holidays!