Sliced glazed Easter ham on a white platter, ceramic bunnies, and a side plate of asparagus and sliced  ham.

Best Types of Ham: Which Do I Buy for the Holiday?

What is the best ham to buy for Easter or Christmas, or any season? Do you want a smoked ham? A honey ham? We’ll show you the best types of ham.

Baked ham is a time-honored tradition in America, especially for Easter or Christmas. (A lot of people also prefer ham for Thanksgiving, either as a complement or alternative to the traditional turkey.) Of course, it’s not that way everywhere in the world. read more

Christmas Gift Guide, Stocking Stuffers, Under $20.00, Customer Favorites, Holiday Entertaining.

Christmas Food Gift Guide

Food Gifts for Christmas

Shop our Christmas Gift Guide and discover “buy now, pay later” Christmas gift ideas that are easy on your holiday budget! Want to know where to find the best Christmas ham? It’s right here, along with Christmas appetizers, holiday gift baskets, stocking stuffers for kids and handcrafted Christmas treats for everyone on your list—all starting at just $10 a month. Want to learn more about Swiss Colony Credit? Click here for more info! read more

Three females at Cheese Days 2016 walking with a Swiss Colony Cheese Days parade banner.

Cheese Days in Monroe, Wisconsin

The Swiss Colony has been selling cheese since 1926, but there’s even an older tradition in its hometown. It’s Green County Cheese Days in Monroe, Wisconsin! read more

Yellow spring flower towers with boxes displaying a beef log, cheese, chocolates, mixed nuts, candies and more.

Unique Gift Ideas for Mom: Mother’s Day Food Gifts and More

Looking for unique gift ideas for mom? Mother’s Day food gifts are always great, but the best gifts are the ones that could only have come from you.

Remember when you were a kid looking for gift ideas for Mom? You’d ask her if there was anything she wanted, and she’d always tell you the same thing: The gift itself is not important. The best Mother’s Day gifts—the ones that mean something—are the ones you put some thought into. Chances are, no matter what Dad got her on that special day, her favorite gift was the crude card you made with paper, crayons, glue, and love. It was from the heart, and it was one of a kind…just like you are.

Personalized Gift Ideas for Mom read more

Happy Halloween petits fours decorated with chocolate and orange icing, white ghost faces and orange stripes.

Halloween Dessert Ideas for the Perfect Party

Halloween party themes can be silly or spooky—and delicious—with unique tablescapes and a clever selection of seasonal desserts for the kid in all of us.

Fall is an amazing time in many parts of the country, when leaves turn beautiful hues of red, yellow and purple, apple and pumpkin harvests are in full swing, and corn mazes pop up in farmers’ fields. It should come as no surprise that Halloween ranks second next to Christmas in terms of holiday popularity. While Halloween isn’t as much of a gift occasion as the holidays that follow it, Halloween gifts can mean much more than the sweets handed out to neighborhood kids. And even though food doesn’t figure as prominently in a Halloween celebration, the right dessert can be the biggest treat of all for a Halloween party.

Halloween History

Like many holidays, the origin of Halloween dates back to ancient Celtic traditions. The seasonal transition that occurred between the last day of October and the first day of November was considered to be a bridge to the world of the dead. At that time, the festival of Samhain was celebrated; gifts were offered to the deceased and masks were worn in the hopes that crops for the next year would be plentiful. Turnips were even carved with faces to ward off evil spirits. With northern Europe’s conversion to Christianity in the early Middle Ages, November 1 became All Saints’ Day…and Samhain became Hallowe’en (“hallowed evening”)—the eve of All Saints’ Day.

These traditions ultimately transitioned to the modern-day Halloween after World War II, when mainstream children’s magazines featured articles on the centuries-old traditions that helped evolve ancient customs into popular culture. Today, we carve pumpkins instead of turnips and wear full costumes and go trick-or-treating for candy. Costume superstores spring up in unexpected places and Halloween party decorations line store shelves well before it seems time to stock up for the holiday.

Halloween Party Themes

Halloween parties are on the rise. According to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween predictions from 2014, one-third of Americans will throw or attend a party (33.4%), which was up from the previous year (30.9%). Chances are, you know someone who is a Halloween fanatic, going the extra mile to decorate their yard and house for Halloween and dressing up in elaborate costumes.

Halloween party themes can be over-the-top scary or just plain silly, especially for young kids. Throwing a party is always fun and helps to create memories. There are several excellent resources for developing Halloween party themes, such as the Better Homes & Gardens website or, of course, Pinterest.

To decorate for the occasion, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes can be jazzed up with paint. For a black-and-white party theme, use white pumpkins painted with black stripes, polka dots or bats. Stretchy “web” decorations draped over almost anything can make anything look spooky. Freeze little plastic bugs—especially black spiders—in ice cubes for a wickedly fun drink surprise.

For a playful kids party, create a monster theme with whimsical monsters. You can do a lot with pairs of “googly eyes” purchased at a craft store. You can glue them to unexpected items such as brightly colored plastic drink cups, mirrors, and even framed school photographs. Boo!

Found objects, like dried leaves and twigs, can embellish a buffet table. Add several long twigs to a vase, then hang Halloween decorations that match the party theme off of the “branches” for a dramatic effect. If you use a clear vase, fill it with layers of different Halloween candy like candy corn, candy pumpkins and black and orange jelly beans.

Halloween Dessert Ideas

Once you have your Halloween party theme picked out, it’s time to plan out the food and beverages to serve.

Wow guests with an amazing “tablescape” for the food and dessert display that will have them sharing party pictures on Instagram and Facebook. Vary the height of the foods served to add visual interest. To do that, find some sturdy boxes (like a shoe box) and place them under a dramatic or colorful tablecloth to raise up the items. Mini pumpkins hollowed out also make fantastic serving bowls for dips, and mini plastic black cauldrons add drama to serve up chips and crackers.

A showstopping beverage often involves a ghoulish-colored liquid enhanced with billowing “smoke” by placing dry ice in a large container, like a punch bowl. This video shows a foolproof way to use dry ice to great effect.

Everyone loves dessert, so give guests Halloween treats they’ll rave about:

Witches Brooms. Simply turn mini peanut butter cups upside down and pierce the upturned end with a mini pretzel stick.
Mummy Truffles. Purchase a dozen chocolate truffles pre-drizzled with chocolate stripes and add your own ‘eyes’ (either purchased candy eyes or use frosting) in between the stripes so they look like tiny mummies.
Graveyard Stones. Make your own graveyard display by using a jelly roll pan and lining it with crushed chocolate cookies to make it look like dirt. Then, purchase

Coconut Petits Fours read more

Elk and venison sausage gift box with sliced sausage, dip and a cutting board on the side.

Father’s Day Food Gifts and Other Great Ideas for Dad

What to get Dad for Father’s Day? Put down the necktie! We’ll help you out with great Father’s Day food gifts and other ideas.

Mothers and fathers have special days in their honor. However, the steps taken to create a day to recognize the great things fathers do was much more difficult than the process to develop Mother’s Day, which took off commercially in 1908.

History of Father’s Day

A concerted effort to establish Father’s Day came from Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father raised her and her five siblings as a widower. She campaigned in her home state of Washington, which responded by establishing a statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. The campaign was slow to catch on but was championed by Presidents Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Even with presidential backing, public support was less than enthusiastic.

Manly men didn’t necessarily want a touchy/feely day to commemorate their contributions to their offspring, although retailers across the country (having seen the wide commercial success of Mother’s Day) were in unanimous support of a Father’s Day that would be akin to a “second Christmas.” This was especially true after the Depression era, when store owners were more than ready to promote “goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards.” (source: history.com)

Still, it took the mass deployment of young men and fathers in World War II to impart enough empathy to rally the nation’s consciousness. And although it was not officially recognized, the Father’s Day movement finally achieved national status in 1972 when President Richard Nixon made the official proclamation.

What to Get Dad for Father’s Day

The top father’s day gifts typically follow a simple philosophy. To choose the best gifts for Dad on Father’s Day, keep these four key words in mind:

Want, Need, Wear, Read

Of course, it always helps when the gift recipient offers suggestions on what he would like to receive as a gift. But if you know the person well, these four guidelines should get you pretty close to finding perfect presents…even gifts for men who have everything. (This will also help you decide what to get Dad for his birthday.)

Want: Father’s Day Food Gifts and More

Typically, a “want” is something aspirational—an item or service that your father would not necessarily purchase for himself. If he wants a new golf club or a shiny riding mower, it might be worth rounding up a group of siblings to all contribute to a big gift. Other, smaller “wants” could satisfy cravings…like meat, cheese or chocolates. There are lots of food gift baskets out there. Consider the meals men love, and think of your dad in his man cave or well-worn recliner snacking away on his private goodie stash while he watches his favorite sport on TV, and it will become easy to choose gift baskets for Dad.

Need: Essential Gifts for Dad

A “need” gift is a bit easier to buy. However, you really need to know the person well to identify true needs. For example, maybe his ladder has broken and he could use a nice, sturdy upgrade. Or perhaps a couple of tools need replacing. If you ask him what’s broken, lost or worn out, that will usually answer the question of need.

Maybe Dad “needs” to follow a sugar-free or gluten-free lifestyle. In that case, even fun food gifts can fill a need, such as sugar-free gifts or gluten-free gifts.

Wear: Personalized Father’s Gifts

Something to “wear” seems easy enough, if you know his size. Maybe he’s a fan of flannel shirts, loves to lounge in comfy slippers or even show his wild side while wearing a fun Hawaiian shirt as he barbecues in the back yard. Sports-themed wearable presents are always a sure bet, as are personalized Father’s Day shirts and other wearable gifts for him.

Read: Great Ideas for Father’s Day

To get the most out of a “read” gift, find out if your dad is a traditional reader of printed books, or if he has embraced the digital age. E-readers make excellent presents, as do tablets and other smart electronics for him. Don’t forget gift cards for him to purchase online books. Clever reading accessories can also make unexpected gifts. On the flip side, you could spend a little extra for a hardcover book from his favorite author or one that is written about his favorite topic.

These basic principles apply when you need birthday gifts for men, too…but Father’s Day has truly earned its status each third Sunday in June, as Americans who purchase presents for their fathers spend approximately a billion dollars annually. With all the unique Father’s Day gift baskets and other choices out there, it won’t be hard to find

Father’s Day food gifts read more

Fuzzy chick Easter basket filled with an assortment of foiled chocolate candies and jelly beans.

Premade Easter Baskets…Convenience Meets Tradition

The history of Easter baskets is filled with tradition. Premade Easter baskets leave more time for finding Easter eggs and a chocolate bunny.

Easter is a cherished religious holiday that holds significant meaning beyond simply serving up your best Easter ham and all the trimmings. Very early Christians used decorated and painted eggs to symbolize religious teachings which have been carried through to modern times. In other faiths, eggs symbolize the start of a new life with events timed with the start of spring.

Colored Easter eggs are linked to the tradition of giving decorated eggs for friendship, love and good wishes. Easter “egg rolls” down steep hills or across lawns (like at the White House) and egg hunts have all been popularized and are fun for children.

While there is no specific religious reference to the Easter bunny, rabbits have been symbols of fertility and new life for centuries.

To learn more about Easter traditions, check out these videos at history.com.

History of Easter Baskets read more

Sliced glazed masterpiece ham on a holiday plate with red grapes, pears and oranges.

Easter Traditions: How to Bake a Ham

Want to put together a fabulous Easter ham dinner menu? We’ll teach you how to bake a ham, carve it, and build a traditional menu around it.

Easter dinner is a great opportunity to gather the family in celebration. Spring—Easter, in particular—signifies a new beginning…symbolized by the candy eggs that show up in Easter gift baskets. The snows have melted, the tulips and daffodils start poking up from the thawed earth, and things start greening up. The days are suddenly longer than the nights. It’s why ancient religions worshipped a dawn goddess at the equinox; Aries is the first sign of the zodiac; and the early Roman calendar started in March. (Did you ever wonder why the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth months of the year are named for the Latin numerals seven, eight, nine and ten?) And so we celebrate Easter…and more often than not, we do it with ham.

The Origin of the Easter Ham Tradition

Easter, of course, is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ…another new beginning. It gets its name from the ancient Anglo-Saxon word for spring, Eostre. Of course, if Jesus served meat at the Last Supper, it would have been lamb. Jewish Passover traditions call for lamb, which is the most popular meat in the Mediterranean region. In northern Europe, however—where Easter got its name—the most important meat is pork.

In the days before refrigeration, pigs were slaughtered in the fall and the fresh pork was eaten through the winter months before Lent. The large hindquarters, or hams, were preserved to enjoy during the warmer months by curing (salting, brining and/or smoking). This process took a long time, and the first hams were ready to eat in the spring. Ham, then, was a natural choice for the Easter celebration in northern Europe…a tradition that came to North America with the immigrants from that region.

There are many varieties of ham, but not all are suitable for the Easter celebration. Learn about the best types of ham and choose the one that suits your taste and entertaining style. Once you’ve chosen the best ham for your Easter celebration, here’s how to prepare it… (Note: the instructions below are for a bone-in ham; if you choose a spiral-sliced or boneless ham, it will be much easier.)

How to Bake a Ham read more