Holiday Party Time!

Tonight is NCP’s holiday party, so I just wanted you to know that the Panel Support Center will be closing at 4 p.m. ET. We’ll be back tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. ET to help you with anything you need.

If your company is having a holiday party anytime soon, let me know all about it. I’m sure all our readers would love to hear what goes on!

Also, please remember to record all of your holiday purchases. Everything counts, no matter how big or how small!

Thanks, and have a great day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of everyone here at NCP, I just want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Try not to eat too much! I know I’ll be using some of the recipes that some panelists were nice enough to send me.

And then the fun begins (or continues, for some people). What I mean is, it’s time for holiday shopping!

The mall near my house is almost always busy, but during the holiday season it gets really crazy. So I will try to venture out early on Saturday or Sunday.

I don’t know if you’re also going to be holiday shopping in the next few days, but, according to the National Retail Foundation, nearly six in 10 Americans — an estimated 137.4 million people — plan to or are considering shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend. (This covers Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, plus Sunday, and includes both in-store and online shopping.)

According to the NRF, 21% of shoppers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, Black Friday will remain the busiest day of the holiday weekend with 74% planning to shop that day.

If you’re going to be doing any shopping, please make sure to record your purchases! We know you’re extra busy at this time of year, but this information is very important.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that we are closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday. The Panel Support Center will be open on Saturday, Nov. 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Have a very happy holiday!

It’s Turkey Time!

It’s really hard to believe, but next week is Thanksgiving. Where does the time go?!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had asked for your help with some recipes. Well, we received a number of recipes, and I’d like to share a few with all of you!

Sweet Potato Soufflé

From Shirley Jordan:  My dessert recipe is normally a side dish, but because I serve it cold and it is sweet and taste like a crustless pie, we eat it as a “healthy” dessert. As a retired School Food Service Manager, we also served it as a dessert; however, we omitted the nuts and used less marshmallows. Lol The kids still loved it!

  • 4 large cans of whole sweet potatoes
  • 2 bags mini marshmallows
  • 6 bags roasted candied pecans
  • 1 stick of margarine, butter, or substitute melted
  • 4 tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Pumpkin pie spice

In a large 6 – 8 quart bowl mash with a potato masher to desired pieces, add 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 2 bag of roasted candied pecans, stick of melted margarine, and spice.

Mix together well with a spoon. Pour into a greased 8 qt. casserole dish, bake covered in a pre-heated 350° oven for 45 min. check temp. of 135° (final temp will be 145°) if not at temp, recover continue baking. When it reaches 135° uncover add 4 bag roasted candied pecans evenly over the top, then add the remaining marshmallows across the top as well trying not to have any sweet potato filling showing. Place back into oven remaining at 350° start at 10 min, check to see if marshmallows are melted and tan. If not Close door and continue baking until marshmallows are to your desired roast color. Great served hot or cold. I prefer cold. Refrigerated good for 7 days. Can be left out in 72° environment for 3 days.

Apple And Sage Stuffing

From Monique Bailey:

  • 1 loaf of French or Italian bread
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to coat the baking dish
  • 2 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 2 medium apples
  • 3 medium celery stalks
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper 
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes and place in a large, heatproof bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt the measured butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the apples, celery, thyme, and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock or broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the vegetable-apple mixture to the reserved bread cubes. Season with two or three large pinches of salt and two large pinches of pepper, then stir to evenly combine. If the mixture seems too dry, add more stock or broth 1/4 cup at a time (but make sure it doesn’t get mushy).
  4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered, until the top of the stuffing just starts to get brown and crusty, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Green Bean Casserole

From Tom Leary

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 (14.5 ounce) cans French style green beans, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled buttery round crackers
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for one minute. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, and sour cream. Add green beans, and stir to coat.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a small bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

I know these recipes will help me next week! I hope you find them useful.

Have a great day!

Time To Honor The Vets

Today is Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended World War I in 1918.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11 became a legal federal holiday in 1938. After World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

Please make sure to honor our vets! They sacrificed so much for us.

Many restaurants offer free or discounted meals for vets. Check this out: http://militarybenefits.info/veterans-day-discounts-sales-deals-free-meals/

Do You Have A Recipe You’d Like To Share?
If you have any favorite Thanksgiving Day-related recipes, send them my way! (send them to info@ncppanel.com). We’ll post as many as possible so that other NCP panelists can also try out your recipes.

Have a great day!

Send Us Your Thanksgiving Recipes!

This is such a crazy time of year, with so much going on. Halloween just ended, next week is the election, and before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here.

Speaking of Halloween, boy did I buy a lot of Halloween candy. But it turns out we didn’t have too many trick or treaters (perhaps because it was a school night?).

Anyway, I didn’t want to have the kids — and frankly my husband and me — eating bags and bags of candy for days and days!

So, I’m going to be donating the extra candy to the troops. If you’re interested in doing the same, there are at least two organizations collecting candy for our military: Operation Gratitude and Soldiers’ Angels.

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas
I can’t believe it, but Thanksgiving Day is less than three weeks away. I want to make something a little different this year for our dinner/dessert. Could you guys help me out? Please send me your favorite Thanksgiving recipes (send them to info@ncppanel.com).

I’ll try to post as many as possible so that other NCP panelists can also try out your recipes!

Get Out And Vote!
One last thing: Next Tuesday is Election Day. Let’s be honest, many people are not thrilled with the choices for President. But the thing is, we are so fortunate to be able to vote. So, please exercise that right and pick whomever you believe will do the best job for the country.

Thank you, and have a great weekend!

Dressing Up For Halloween

Next Monday is Halloween. I hope you’re ready! We finally had time to get costumes: My daughter will be Elsa from Frozen, and my son is going as Darth Vader. (I’m dressing up, too. I’m going as a pirate. My husband will be handling the Trick or Treaters that come to our house while we’re out collecting treats.)

Halloween costumes are a big business. According to the National Retail Foundation, the amount spent on Halloween costumes this year is expected to reach $3.1 billion!

The NRF recently conducted a survey and found these to be the most popular costumes per age group:

Children’s Costumes

  1. Action/Superhero
  2. Princess
  3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
  4. Batman Character
  5. Star Wars Character
  6. Tie: Witch AND DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman)
  7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
  8. Marvel Superhero
  9. Zombie
  10. Spiderman

Adults 18-34 years old

  1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
  2. Witch
  3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
  4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) AND DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman)
  5. Vampire
  6. Video Game Character
  7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
  8. Pirate
  9. Star Wars Character
  10. Zombie

Adults 35+

  1. Witch
  2. Pirate
  3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
  4. Vampire
  5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
  6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
  7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman) and Star Wars Character
  8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
  9. Scary Costume/Mask
  10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.)

As you can see, Halloween is not just for kids!

What are you or the kids in your life going to be for Halloween? Let me know!

And here are the results from last week’s poll, which asked “What are you planning to give out for Halloween?”

  • Candy: 68.29%
  • Small toys/gifts: 13.41%
  • Snacks (chips/pretzels): 9.76%
  • Money: 2.44%
  • Fruit: 2.44%
  • Nothing: 23.17%

Have a happy, safe, and fun Halloween.

Shopping For Halloween

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already picked up some treats for the children who’ll be Trick or Treating on Halloween. I bought a variety of candies, mostly things that I love but try to limit eating during the rest of the year (I try so hard to be good!)

But I was curious what non-candy items other people may be giving out for this holiday.

According to bigcountryhomepage.com, some people have been known to hand out toothbrushes and floss(!!), and informational pamphlets. Yeah, if I were a kid, I’d definitely be skipping those houses.

Other non-candy treat alternatives include stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils, mini note pads, glow necklaces, vampire teeth, and bookmarks. Those sound a lot more fun than dental floss!

What are you planning to hand out for Halloween? Take our survey below!


Powered by Vovici: Publish your own web survey today

Oh, and don’t forget to scan everything you purchase for Halloween. We really want to know about what candy and other Halloween-related items you purchase for this holiday.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Pumpkin Picking, Corn Mazes, And Halloween Decorating: What A Week!

So this week we went to a local farm and did some pumpkin picking. The kids really enjoyed it! While we were at the farm, we watched a pumpkin carving demonstration and got some great ideas for how to carve our own pumpkins.

My husband and I really enjoyed the corn maze they had at the farm. It was quite a challenge getting through it!

Speaking of corn mazes, I did a little research, and found a list of some really cool ones throughout the country. (Thanks to 10best.com for the great info!)

  • The Farmstead Corn Maze & Pumpkin Festival, Meridian, ID
  • Great Vermont Corn Maze, Danville, VT
  • McCall’s Pumpkin Patch, Moriarty, NM
  • Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, Lancaster, PA
  • Frederica Mesa Farm Fall Festival, Avondale, CO
  • Scott’s Maze, Mt. Dora, FL
  • Sever’s Corn Maze & Fall Festival, Twin Cities, MN
  • Treinen Farm Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, Lodi, WI
  • Cool Patch Pumpkins, Dixon, CA
  • Connors Farm, Danvers, MA

We also started decorating the house. I looked around for some new ideas for making the house extra creepy. Here are a few that we’re going to try (I found these on homedit.com):

  • Board Up Your Windows
  • Cheesecloth Lawn Ghosts
  • Front Door Flies – Attach fake plastic flies or other creepy insects around your front door handle.
  • Glowing Eyes – Cut the eye shapes out of the side of the cardboard tube, insert glow sticks into the tube, and duct tape up the ends.
  • “Hand”y Hallway – Find some hand props and mount them to your hallway walls for a spooky walk down the hall.

Let me know about any great corn mazes you’ve seen, or how you’re decorating your house.

Have a great day!

Pumpkin Patch

It’s Fall Festival Time

Please note: On behalf of all of us at the National Consumer Panel, we hope that everyone in Hurricane Matthew’s path has taken precautions so that they’re safe from the storm. Our thoughts are with you.

Last week, my family went to an apple festival, which is a fun thing to do this time of year in our area of the country. We all went on a hay ride, and the kids enjoyed a pony ride and playing in a bounce house. (Honestly, I would have loved to join them in the bounce house. It looked like fun!)

Then, if that wasn’t enough, we ate, and ate, and ate some more! One of the other great things about fall festivals is all the great food out there, such as apple pies, candied and caramel apples, and jams. It was a real treat!

Next week we’re going pumpkin picking and then we’ll finish decorating the house. Also, I want to get to a few Oktoberfests in our area. No doubt my husband and I will indulge with some adult beverages!

Since it seems that almost every city and town has its own fall festival, I wondered what other festivals were going on in other parts of the country. Here are just a few well-known festivals, according to CountryLiving.com.

  • Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, TX, now through November 23
  • Circleville Pumpkin Show, Circleville, OH, October 19-22
  • Country Living Fair, Stone Mountain Park, GA, October 21-23
  • Cranberry Harvest Fest, Wareham, MA, October 8-9
  • Fall Back Beer Fest, Estes Park, CO, November 5
  • Fall for Greenville, Greenville, SC, October 14-16
  • Hood River Valley Harvest Fest, Hood River, OR, October 14-16
  • Madison County Covered Bridge Festival, Winterset, IA, October 8-9
  • National Apple Harvest Festival, Arendtsville, PA, October 8-9
  • North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival, Whiteville, NC, November 5
  • Scarecrow Festival, St. Charles, IL, October 7-9
  • Trailing of the Sheep Festival, Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Hailey, ID, October 5

I’m sure they are plenty of festivals in your area of the country. Let me know which ones are your favorites!

Have a nice day.

Will You Be Watching The First Presidential Debate?

Regardless of how you feel about either of the major party presidential nominees, you have to say that things have certainly gotten very interesting.

Speaking of which, the first presidential debate will be held Monday, September 26, at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (my alma mater!), and you can guarantee that a whole lot of people will be tuning in to watch.

Presidential debates usually draw a large viewing audience. According to The Nielsen Company, these are the highest-rated presidential debates:

Presidential Debates

According to Nielsen, six of the top 10 debates by household viewership numbers occurred within one of the last three election years. Of those six, President Barack Obama has appeared in five of them—and the initial debate of the 2012 election, featuring him against Mitt Romney, currently holds the top spot.

Until the 2012 election, the top spot once belonged to the historic 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. At 45.8 million households, the lone presidential debate of the 1980 election maintained the top spot for nearly 32 years, according to Nielsen.

Let’s see if this year’s debates break the record!

Have a great day.