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Homemade Holiday Delights That Are Guaranteed to Butter Anyone Up

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(StatePoint) As we find ourselves surrounded by an abundance of this year’s “must-have” items, our shopping lists are often dictated by retail experts all claiming to offer the ultimate gift-giving guide. But there’s no need to spend a fortune or face the aggravation of competing with crowds for sold-out products. Sometimes, the most rich and memorable gifts can be created in the kitchen.

To put a touch of finesse on your sweet treats, take a cue from the experts and use Plugrá butter, which professional pastry chefs prefer because of its slow-churn and extra creaminess. Unlike other butters, Plugrá uses the right balance of specially selected cream and butterfat, resulting in a texture that harmoniously bends and blends to help craft homemade, confectionary masterpieces.

Using the finest ingredients, Plugrá’s executive chef, Linda Hall, developed a decadent brownie recipe that’s certain to spice up gift-giving.

“Nothing says indulgence like a gooey, chocolaty brownie, however, most people have been there, done that. This year, dial it up a notch by adding spices and flavors that evoke warmth and coziness. My recipe is reminiscent of a hot cup of Mexican hot chocolate that has cinnamon and vanilla notes,” says Hall.

To get you inspired this season, Plugrá partnered with other premium ingredients brands to create a brownie with better results. The Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies recipe below embraces a savory note produced by Spice House’s strongest and sweetest Vietnamese “Saigon” cinnamon, along with a kick of chipotle pepper. The decadent flavor is also emphasized by using fair and sustainable Manjari dark chocolate from leading chocolate brand, Valrhona, in addition to Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, which uses premium, hand selected beans and a slow extraction process to produce the richest tasting vanilla. Additional holiday recipes can be found by visiting plugra.com/recipes.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies

Source: Plugrá Kitchens, Chicago, Illinois

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Servings: 24

Ingredients:

• 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate

• 10 tablespoons Plugrá European Style Butter, unsalted

• 4 large eggs

• 2 cups sugar

• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tablespoon ground Saigon cinnamon from the Spice House

• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne pepper

• 2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

• 6 ounces Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate, chopped

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9x13-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Place the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a large, microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until melted.

3. Stir in the sugar until well blended.

4. Beat in the eggs.

5. Stir in the remaining ingredients until just blended.

6. Spread the batter on the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pan to see if it comes out clean.

Package your dessert in a decorative tin or box and handwrite the recipe for the gift that keeps giving!

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Photo Credit: (c) Premyuda Yospim / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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Beat the Holiday Stress With Cheese-Pleasing Recipes and Fun

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(StatePoint) It’s become an annual tradition that as soon as we bid adieu to chrysanthemums, the cornucopias and the turkey dinner, the frantic countdown to Christmas begins. From the countless holiday soirees and batches of bulk baking, to battling the crowds in a futile attempt to secure the most sought-after toy, or remembering to move the elf each night, ‘tis the season to be exhausted.

This year, whether you’re hosting a yuletide bash or looking for simple and satisfying ways to feed the family, consider taking a break from the madness with “55 Days of Cheesemas,” which offers not only a lineup of easy, cheesy and crowd-pleasing recipes, but also a chance to win daily prizes – many of which can help you in the kitchen this season. After whipping up a quick, yet delectable appetizer or side dish, sit back and escape the day’s hustle and bustle with a virtual game certain to summon childhood Christmas fun by visiting 55daysofcheesemas.com. Navigate a fast-paced obstacle course as an elf to deliver cheese and you’ll receive the chance to win prizes daily from the Borden Cheese Delicious Delivery game, including an Instacart gift card for $500.00.

Need some simple entertaining ideas? Here is one sanity-saving, cheeselicious recipe that is guaranteed to delight tastebuds and impress guests.

Cheesy Pimento Wheels

These zesty, bite-sized, baked pinwheels are loaded with creamy pimento cheese, serving as the quintessential appetizer at any holiday celebration.

Ingredients:

Yields: 18 wheels

• 16 ounces Borden Shredded Cheese (Triple Cheddar, or any mix of Sharp, Mild or Monterey Jack)

• 4 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1/3 cup mayonnaise

• 4 ounces diced pimentos (drained)

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper

• 1 large egg

• 2 tablespoons water

• 2 sheets puff pastry (thawed)

Directions:

1. Combine the shredded cheese with softened cream cheese and mayonnaise in a medium size bowl. Stir together to create a consistent texture.

2. Add the diced pimentos, salt and pepper, and stir.

3. Add the egg and water in a small bowl, and whisk to combine.

4. Brush the egg wash over the top of the puff pastry. Spoon the pimento cheese on top, spreading it out into a consistent layer.

5. Roll the puff pastry carefully to create a roll. Then gently slice the roll into 1-inch-long sections using a sharp knife.

6. Lay the rolls into a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or foil. Make sure to not crowd the rolls or they will stick to each other while baking.

7. Bake for 20 minutes at the temperature indicated on the puff pastry package, until rolls are golden, and the cheese is bubbly.

8. Cool for about 5 minutes and then remove the rolls from the pan.

To find more inspiration for tasty sides, flavorful entrees and breakfasts for a crowd, visit bordencheese.com/cheesemas.

With crowd-pleasing recipe ideas and chances to win prizes, a season traditionally filled with soirees, shopping and stress can be made a little tastier and little more fun.

Photo Credit: (c) philly077 / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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4 New Ways Agriculture is Fighting Climate Change

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(StatePoint) Agriculture contributes about 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to the United Nations. And while the sector is a key contributor to climate change, it is also vulnerable to its effects -- with climate-related impacts such as droughts, flooding and longer fire seasons posing increasingly serious challenges to farmers and ranchers around the world.

The good news is there is a fast-growing sustainable agriculture movement, and it’s continuing to accelerate as the need becomes more urgent. Here are a few examples of new technologies and practices that agricultural entrepreneurs are developing to adapt to the challenges of climate change and become part of the solution.

1. California-based TerViva is commercializing a climate-resilient legume that can withstand harsh weather conditions. Its protein- and oil-rich seeds are a sustainable alternative to palm and soy.

2. Missouri’s Pluton Biosciences is developing a microbial product that can be applied at planting and harvest to scrub nearly two tons of carbon from the air per acre of farmland per year, while replenishing nutrients in the soil.

3. Indoor agriculture is an emerging solution that addresses the challenges of weather, pests, and limitations in space and water, but it also requires significant energy to supply light in place of the sun. Colorado startup SunPath addresses this problem by using fiber optic indoor lighting, delivering actual sunlight deep inside buildings. And Pennsylvania-based GrowFlux’s intelligent lighting systems provides 20-30% energy savings when used for indoor horticulture.

4. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas released from agriculture fields that is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Tennessee-based startup mobius is developing the next generation of biodegradable plastics made from a byproduct of the agriculture and forestry industries that can be used to deliver nitrogen for plants in a controlled manner and in place of fossil-fuel based fertilizers, improving soil quality, minimizing harmful nitrogen runoff, and significantly reducing emissions.

Experts point out that the need for such solutions is urgent, and so is the support that will allow these emerging technologies to succeed.

“Accelerating climate-technology innovation is essential if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Trish Cozart, director of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator that connects ag-tech startups to experts and facilities at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. “In order for new technologies to make a true impact, they need to prove to investors that these products are truly capable of delivering what they promise. Through IN2, startups get the support they need to validate their technologies, including access to a network of on-farm sites to test products and solutions in a real-world setting.”

“The finance sector is increasingly seeing sustainable investment as both a responsibility and an opportunity,” said Wells Fargo’s Agribusiness Division executive, Jacquie Fredericks. “The importance of the agriculture sector to our livelihood cannot be understated, and we’re encouraged by this new wave of climate-smart technologies focused on securing our access to food and raw materials, while making meaningful contributions to the fight against climate change.”

Photo Credit: (c) Zbynek Pospisil / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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