Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week

It is finally time to get down to some serious holiday shopping. This magical time of year is all about children, and that shows in the variety of toys, clothing, and other delights waiting for you at LTD Commodities. Here are our Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week.

Your little girl will feel like she's caring for a real baby with a La Newborn Real Life 14" Doll Set or Outfits.

Your little girl will feel like she’s caring for a real baby with a La Newborn® Real Life 14″ Doll Set or Outfits.

Add adventure and excitement to their pretend covert operations with the Military Walkie-Talkie Command Center.

Add adventure and excitement to their pretend covert operations with the Military Walkie-Talkie Command Center.

Jelly Belly® Gift Boxes include 10 or 40 different flavors of the world-famous, delicious candy.

Jelly Belly® Gift Boxes include 10 or 40 different flavors of the world-famous, delicious candy.

Your child can save the day with a Rush & Rescue Remote Control Vehicle!

Your child can save the day with a Rush & Rescue™ Remote Control Vehicle!

 

 

4 Ways to Handle Pets During Thanksgiving

Dog-and-CatThanksgiving is for family and friends — and, of course, our pets are part of the family, but with all the people and food, we forget holidays get a little tricky with our animals. Here are a 4 ways to handle pets during Thanksgiving.

Guests vs. Pets When you invite people into your home, you’re also inviting their difficulties. Make sure to tell your guests ahead of time that you have pets so you can address any issues:

Avoiding Allergies If you have a guest who has an allergy to your dog or cat, putting your pet in the next room may not be enough to prevent an allergic reaction. To be polite and cautious consider giving your pets a bath before the big holiday or take them to be groomed. Also, be sure to give your house a good cleaning as well as change your air filters — dander and pet hair land in places we don’t think about and, as pet owners, we don’t really notice. As an extra measure of precaution, stock the medicine cabinet with over-the-counter allergy medication.

petcaveAnimal Animosity As pet owners we can’t imagine why someone doesn’t like dogs or cats — especially your sweet Snowball or friendly Fido — but not everyone wants a furry friend, least of all at the Thanksgiving table. If you have guests who don’t like animals, set up a special room for your dog or cat. Make it cozy with a bed, toys and food and water. This makes guests comfortable as well as your pets.

Dinner Denial With a mountain of food on the table, there’s no place your dog or cat wants to be more than under the table waiting for feast fallout. As much as you would like to give your pet a morsel of holiday goodness, try to refrain — especially if it’s raw. Raw turkey is infamous for carrying salmonella — we know it can make humans very sick, but it can land pets in the emergency room, too. Other foods we think are harmless can cause illness in your pet as well. Food like bread dough can cause an upset stomach and chocolate may result in a trip to the vet. Don’t take any chances with your pets on Thanksgiving. If you feel like they’re being left out of the festivities, get them special treats made for pets.

dog-and-catFeast Fatigue Old friends and family are familiar to you, but new faces may cause excitement for your pet. Before the guests arrive, take your dogs on a walk to get out all of the energy before the dinner madness starts. If your pets get tired out before your hosting duties begin, they’ll be less likely to disrupt dinner or add to the holiday commotion.

We’re with our pets morning, noon and night, so it’s easy to forget they need special attention when guests arrive. Between the holiday shopping and the party preparations, take a little time out to think about your pets for the holiday.

3 Books to Spice Things Up for Cook Something Bold Day

bold-foodWhen you are trying to cook something delicious and healthy every day, it is easy to find yourself in a flavor rut. Cook Something Bold Day marks November 8 as a day to shake things up with zesty ingredients like garlic, hot peppers and saffron. Get started on your culinary journey with these 3 books to spice things up for Cook Something Bold Day.

choppedThe Chopped Cookbook Sometimes cooking something new can be intimidating because it requires exotic ingredients. The Chopped Cookbook shows you ways to unleash the hidden flavors in the food already in your refrigerator and pantry. Transform leftovers into chilled peanut chicken noodle salad. Shake up your taste buds with eggs fried in hot sauce, or a try an American staple with new Louisiana soul with Cajun-spiced burgers. Since this book focuses on common ingredients, you may be able to get cooking without an extra trip to the store.

diners-drive-ins-and-divesDiners, Drive-Ins and Dives On his hit Food Network show, Guy Fieri travels America looking for the most unusual and bold flavors. Bring a bit of his “Flavortown” to your home with the nearly 70 recipes in the all-new Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives cookbook. In addition to fun behind-the-scenes stories from the show, it has lively dishes like braised brisket spiced with coffee and ancho chili powder, green chili stew, and more.

pioneer-womanThe Pioneer Woman Cooks Ree Drummond’s irresistible recipes and wit has made her an Internet superstar and best-selling author. Her up-to-date versions of country favorites include a lot of spicy and savory fare. The Pioneer Woman Cooks features entrees like spicy pulled pork and white chicken enchiladas. If you are just looking for a side or snack, try grilled corn guacamole to add zest to chips.

When you’re trying new recipes, don’t be afraid to add your own spices. Remember that you know how things are supposed to taste and just about every flavor can be adjusted with salt or sugar. Experimenting and being bold is half what makes cooking fun!

National Peanut Butter Month: How to Make Buckeyes

BuckeyesNovember is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month — and it is certainly loved. You can find peanut butter in just about any edible form — cookies, cupcakes, chicken chili, Thai noodles –but since LTD Commodities is in the Midwest, our favorite way to serve peanut butter is as a buckeyes.

BuckeyesIf you don’t know what a buckeye is, it’s a tree. It’s native to the Midwest, but Ohio adopted it as its state tree and The Ohio State University claims it as its mascot (but we don’t have any collegiate allegiances at LTD Commodities). We refer to its seeds as buckeyes — which are very similar to chestnuts, but they’re highly toxic. Buckeye Balls — which are made with peanut butter and chocolate to look like buckeye seeds — are, however, certainly edible and absolutely addictive.

Here’s how to make Buckeyes:buckeye-blanket

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate chips (60% cacao or more)

In a bowl fitted with a stand mixer and paddle attachment or using a hand-mixer , beat together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla on low speed. When the mixture is smooth, start adding the powdered sugar a little bit at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Scoop out about 1¼ TB of the mixture and form a ball with your hands. Set it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Repeat the process with the remaining batter. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Buckeyes

Melt the chocolate using a water bath: on high heat bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce the heat to low and keep the water simmering. Place a kitchen towel over the pan and place a heat-proof bowl on top of the towel. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl to melt. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Buckeyes

Using a toothpick, spear a chilled peanut butter ball and dip it in the melted chocolate leaving a little bit of the peanut butter exposed — this is what makes them look like buckeyes. Return the peanut butter ball (now covered in chocolate) to the cookie sheet and repeat the process with the remaining peanut butter balls. Refrigerate for 15 or 20 minutes.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. This recipe makes about 25 peanut butter balls but it can be doubled, tripled or even cut in half.  Buckeyes also travel well for parties and they can be made ahead and frozen.

You don’t have to be from the Ohio or even the Midwest to enjoy a buckeye ball. They’re easy to make, perfect for the holidays and delicious — even a Michigan Wolverine would enjoy a good buckeye ball.

Sandwich Day: 4 Sandwich Ideas for Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey-Sandwich

November 3rd is National Sandwich Day — it is a day to honor one of America’s favorite meals. Everyone loves a good sandwich, but since it’s also November, we thought we’d give you a few sandwich ideas for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Here are 4 fun turkey sandwiches to get you excited about Thanksgiving.

For leftover Thanksgiving turkey, your slow cooker will be your best friend. Our Gooseberry Patch Slow-Cooker cookbooks have a few ideas you can adapt to make your leftovers exciting.

Turkey French Dip

  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 to 4 whole peppercorns
  • 16 slices of Provolone cheese (or mild white cheese of your choice)
  • 8 French rolls, split

Place the sliced onion on the bottom of the slow-cooker. Add turkey followed by rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, bay leaf, peppercorns, and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for one hour. Discard the bay leaf. Using tongs, place the turkey and onions on the rolls. Top the turkey with cheese. Use the leftover broth for dipping. southern-barbecue

Southern Barbecue

  • 1 ½ lbs roasted turkey, shredded
  • 1 18 oz bottle of barbecue sauce
  • 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TB hot pepper sauce
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 hamburger buns, split

Place all of the ingredients in the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for one hour. Serve on buns with or without cole slaw.midwest-turkey-sandwich

Midwest Turkey Sandwich 

  • 3 lbs roasted turkey, shredded
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (can be substituted with cream of celery or chicken soup)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 24 sandwich buns
  • Pickle slices

Place the turkey in the slow cooker. Top with cream of mushroom soup. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Spoon turkey on to buns and garnish with pickle slices.

EZ Pocket Turkey Sandwich

Ingredients:ez-pocket

  • 2 cans refrigerator biscuit dough
  • Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
  • Leftover Thanksgiving sides

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out one can refrigerator biscuit dough together to fit and fit into EZ Pocket pans.  Fill the pockets with turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and gravy — or whatever leftovers you want to add. Roll out second can of dough and top the filling. Seal the edges of the dough with the crimper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

At LTD Commodities, we’re excited about Sandwich Day, but we’re more excited about the holidays!  Whether you need kitchen gadgets to put together the perfect Thanksgiving dinner or you’re looking for Christmas gifts, we have everything you need at the best prices.

 

Deviled Egg Day: How to Make Basic Deviled Eggs

Deviled_EggsNovember 2nd is the day we set aside to honor the deviled egg — that delightful finger food we see during holiday parties and potlucks. According to history.com they’ve been gracing tables as far back as the first century and recipes for them have been appearing in cookbooks since the 13th centruy with a version claimed by just about every culture. People continue to try to reinvent the deviled egg, but if you’ve never made deviled eggs, you might want to start with a standard American recipe. Here is how to make basic deviled eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • (Paprika for serving)

Deviled_EggsDirections:

Place your eggs in a sauce pan. Fill it with water until the eggs are just covered. Over high heat, bring the water to rolling boil. Turn off the and cover the pan. Let it sit for about nine minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon. Gently crack each egg and place them in a bowl of ice water. Let them sit until they’ve cooled completely — at least a half-hour. If you follow these directions, your yolks will be perfectly yellow (no green!) and the shells should peel off nicely without leaving any craters in the whites.

Deviled_EggsCut the eggs in half, lengthwise. Remove the yolks by popping them out of the white the way you would pop a piece of gum out of a blister pack. Place the yolks in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash together and stir (vigorously) until it’s smooth. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Taste the yolks.  If it needs salt, add a pinch and mix well. If it’s too salty, you can adjust the flavor by adding a ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar.

Deviled_EggsPlace the yolk mixture in a plastic bag. Squeeze out all the air, seal and snip the end with kitchen shears. You will use this to neatly put the yolks back into the egg. With your strong hand, squeeze the top and use your weak hand to guide the bag. Squeeze about 1 TB of yolk mixture into each egg half with a swirl motion. Sprinkle paprika on top. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve the eggs, but they should be consumed within 24 hours.

If you’re looking for an easy make-ahead appetizer for your holiday party or you need to bring something to serve for Thanksgiving, this is a no-fail recipe — it’s hard to mess up for even the worst cooks! Happy Deviled Egg Day!

Deviled_Eggs

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

latte2October starts next week and with October comes an influx of pumpkin flavored everything. It’s something people are obsessed with – particularly the pumpkin spice latte that coffee shops re-introduce to the public every fall for a limited run. One man went so far with his obsession, he made it his mission to put pumpkin spice syrup on everything: pizza, bacon, yogurt, curry. Pumpkin spice is good, but we’ll stick with the coffee idea! Here is a recipe for DIY pumpkin spice latte:

When people refer to pumpkin spice, what they really mean is pumpkin PIE spice. Pumpkin pie spice is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of spices mixed together (you can buy it premixed) to add to pumpkin and other ingredients to make our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies:pumpkindishes

  • 4 parts ground cinnamon
  • 4 parts ground nutmeg
  • 4 parts ground ginger
  • 3 parts ground allspice

A homemade pumpkin spice latte is straightforward:

  • 2 cups milk (whole milk works best)
  • 2 TB pumpkin puree
  • 2 TB granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup espresso
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Pumpkin pie spice for sprinkling

latte1Directions: In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, bring the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, and 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to a simmer, whisking slowly to combine the ingredients evenly and so the milk doesn’t burn. For frothy milk, transfer the milk to a blender, add the espresso and vanilla and carefully blend on medium-high speed (do not close the lid all the way, the heat from the milk will cause the lid to pop off when you blend). If whipped cream is enough froth for you, stir the espresso and vanilla into the sauce pan and whisk well. Divide between two mugs, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

The homemade pumpkin spice latte goes well with homemade apple muffins. If you can’t get enough pumpkin, the latte also goes well with pumpkin rolls, pumpkin muffins or even pumpkin pie. Enjoy your lattes!pumpkins

 

Behind the Scenes: LTD’s Food Stylist

JasonAs LTD Commodities customers, you know we have a wide variety of products – from garden tools to Superman Socks – but you wouldn’t know what we have without great pictures. To make those pictures great, we have different stylists for different products and we have one stylist – Jason — who devotes his days to food. We stopped in behind the scenes at the photo studio to ask Jason a few questions about his work while he put together some Halloween-themed dishes.

LTD: How did you get into food styling?

Jason: I was a visual merchandiser for a retailer for many years where I was responsible for setting up scenes in my store to make shoppers want to buy items. I like to cook, so I used my visual background to take pictures of the food I make and it turned into a career.

LTD: What do you use to inspire you?

Jason: I use my favorite magazines to inspire me. There’s an Australian food magazine that I look at where the food photos are absolutely amazing. I strive to be as precise and creative as their stylists.

LTD: What is the most difficult part of food styling?

Jason:  Working with food that’s not camera-friendly is difficult. I have to make ingredients do what they’re not supposed to do. For example, I have to make whipped cream stay perfectly fluffy for the entire shoot when normally it would melt into the mug of hot chocolate it is sitting on top of.

JasonLTD: What are the three most important things to remember when styling?

Jason: 1. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again.

2. What I’m looking at is not what the camera sees. I have to style from the camera’s point of view, not mine.

3. Be open to other people’s suggestions; sometimes great ideas come from others’ input.

LTD:  Do you have a favorite product you styled for?

Jason:  I love styling for cookbooks because I can make the dishes in the book and that’s what I love doing at home.

JasonLTD: What is the most satisfying part of food styling?

Jason:   Those shots where after I see the finished product, I can say “wow, that makes me hungry.” That and seeing the smiles on coworkers faces when I get to serve them the food I just worked on.

We’re excited to be on Jason’s team — he makes great food look even better. Keep your eye out for his work — with the holidays coming up, he’s staying busy to show you our favorite holiday gifts.

Football Season: 4 Man Cave Essentials

mancaveEveryone needs a place to call their own, and that includes the man of the house. The man cave creates a space where he can relax and do as he pleases without fear of interference from the ladies. It is a place where he can enjoy an adult beverage, yell at the TV, play games, and hang out with the guys. It can be the basement, attic, a rehabilitated office, or a shed. A man cave does not need to be fancy, but here are a few things a fully functional “mantuary” needs. Here are 4 man cave essentials.

mancaveSeating The main point of a man cave is to create a comfortable place to relax. That requires plenty of seating. No man cave is complete without at least one recliner. Nothing makes a guy feel like the master of his domain like putting his feet up. Take the recliner one step further with a reclining sofa or sectional that provides seating for visitors. If your man cave has a bar, stools are mandatory. Beanbag chairs are classics, and you can opt for sofa-sized ones or special designs that convert to guest beds.

Refrigeration Since no one wants to constantly run back and forth to the kitchen for drinks and snacks, the man cave needs a place to keep them chilled. It can be as simple as an old refrigerator or mini fridge appropriated for the room. If beer is your beverage of choice, try a fridge with a built-in tap . There even are appliances specifically designed to hold and cool a keg, as well as dispense beer. DIY kits help you convert a fridge to a drink dispenser. Keep your drinks and food even closer at hand with a coffee table with a built-in cooler.

Entertainment The crown jewel of any man cave is its entertainment system. Often, the entire point of establishing a man cave is to have a place to host game day parties or to watch favorite movies and TV shows. A flat screen TV, as large as you can afford and the room can hold, and a DVD player are absolute musts. Include a game console for days when nothing is on. Don’t forget tables and equipment for other pastimes, like pool, foosball, darts, and poker.

mancaveDécor The thing that really sets the man cave apart from the rest of the house is its décor. It is a spot where a man can escape from the pastels, floral prints, and matching furniture that fills most homes. A sign on or near the door should make it clear visitors are entering a male sanctuary. Look for one with the logo of your favorite team, or get a personalized one with your name. Beer-themed decorations are very popular, but do not limit yourself to that. Show off your sports memorabilia, or transform the space into a tribute to your favorite pop culture icons. Do not forget posters from your favorite movie. A man cave with an attached bathroom is the ultimate in luxury. If you are so blessed, make sure to extend the décor into the bath.

 

Cheese Pizza Day: 6 Tips for Homemade Pizza

cheese-pizzaMark your calendars: National Cheese Pizza Day is September 5th. There are few foods that can instantly put your smile on a face the way pizza does. It’s the food for all ages – young and old enjoy pizza in all shapes, temperatures and texture. Frozen, delivery or homemade, even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good. But, of course, when you’re making homemade pizza, you want it to be better than pretty good, so here are 6 tips for great homemade pizza.

Weigh it Baking is a science. All professional bakers measure ingredients by weight using a digital kitchen scale. Using a scale makes measuring more accurate and, in turn, more tasty. It’s not a must for making great pizza, but it certainly makes a difference. Besides, learning to measure opens up a new world of professional recipes you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Plan Ahead Just about every pizza dough recipe you find requires it to be refrigerated overnight. When you’ve mixed together the yeast, water, salt, and flour, kneaded it and let it rise, it’s very tempting to skip the refrigeration step – don’t! Pizza dough ferments while it’s in the refrigerator. One night of fermentation is great, but three nights makes it super. This is how they do it in New Haven. If you’ve ever had New Haven apizza (that’s not a typo – that’s what they call it in New Haven), you’ve had some of the best pizza in the world.

cheese-pizzaRoll it Out In movies and TV shows you see people spinning and tossing pizza dough out over their heads to make a perfectly circular pie; what you don’t see is that it takes years of practice to make it look that easy. Tossing pizza dough is really hard. Don’t be ashamed of using a pin. It’ll make nice circles and it won’t take you years to do it.

Keep it Loose Professionals and serious pizza makers toss the dough, top it and slide it into the oven with the help of a pizza peel (like a big paddle) and a lot of semolina or cornmeal to make it loose so it doesn’t stick to the peel. To do that without everything falling off into your oven in one big lump also takes a lot of practice. But you can skip the practice and the equipment (unless you’re aiming for authentic). Parchment paper or bake mat work just fine to replace the cornmeal and the pizza peel. Roll your dough out on the paper, top it, carry it to the oven and lower it onto the pizza stone. Easy-peasy, pizza-cheesy.

cheese-pizzaKeep it Flat The best homemade pizzas are made with pizza stones, but you don’t have to have one to make a pizza good. Flip over a cookie sheet and use the bottom for your flat surface. Make sure you preheat the oven with the pan inside (as you would with a pizza stone) so it’s hot when you slide your pizza in. Alternatively, you can assemble it all in a cast iron skillet and bake it just like Pizza Hut.

Get it Hot! Turn your oven up as high as the temperature can go – most ovens won’t go much higher than 500°F. The dough has to be baked all the way through without burning the cheese on top. The high temperature for a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) allows the pizza crust to get crispy and the cheese just hot enough to bubble and melt.

Pizza is hard to make – which is why there are so many alternatives to making it at home. But eating a pizza you created yourself is way more satisfying than anything you can buy. Happy Cheese Pizza Day!