Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TOASTED MARSHMALLOW HOT CHOCOLATE

Hey Everybody! Who said toasted marshmallows are only for the summer! They are just as good in a big cup of hot chocolate in the winter as they are oozing out of s'mores by a bonfire in the summer! And the best part is, you can let your oven do all the work and have toasted, golden marshmallows in about a minute! So easy and delicious! There used to be a coffee shop near our house that my husband and I used to go to all the time, that had the best hot chocolate. You could choose whether you wanted milk, white or dark chocolate as the base, then you could pick all different flavors to add in, like hazelnut, almond, vanilla or peppermint, and choose what toppings you wanted on top! It was a sad, sad day when they closed the coffee shop a couple of moths ago, and I still miss their creamy, rich and decadent hot chocolate! Luckily, it's not too hard to make yourself a big cup, just like this one, at home!

TOASTED MARSHMALLOW HOT CHOCOLATE

YOU WILL NEED
Hot chocolate (my two favorite recipes are THIS Nutella Hot Chocolate
 and THIS decadent Hot Chocolate for Two!)
Mini marshmallows (you could use regular sized ones too)

DIRECTIONS
Make your hot chocolate as usual and pour into your favorite mug! Then, prepare your toasted marshmallows. I set my oven to the broil setting, then put a couple mini marshmallows on a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and let them cook under the broiler for just about a minute or even less, watch them carefully because they toast VERY quickly! Then, simply place the marshmallows in your hot chocolate and enjoy!


For other hot chocolate recipes, check these out!

Left: Nutella Hot Chocolate (recipe HERE) Middle: Hot Chocolate for Two (recipe HERE) Right: Hot Chocolate Cookies (recipe HERE)


Have a great day, Everyone!
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Monday, November 24, 2014

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE FOR BAKERS

Hey Everyone! Judging by my trip to the mall yesterday, it seems like lots of people have already started their Christmas shopping, so I thought it would be fun to share this gift guide with you today! I love Christmas shopping; I love finding the perfect gift for someone that I know will make them smile and I love wrapping gifts almost even more than I love buying them! I should have been born on the North Pole and worked in Santa's workshop! Because I love to bake, I thought I would put together a Christmas gift guide for bakers to give you inspiration for those baking lovers in your life, or for your own Christmas Wishlist if you love to bake yourself! The list includes 25 items, all under $25, and I tried to include a variety of products that are both fun (because Christmas is all about getting things you might not buy normally) and practical. I own a couple of the items, and some are on my own baking wishlist!


1. Cookie Dough Scoop (Williams-Sonoma) This is the most practical tool for any cookie baker! 
2. Gingerbread Man Cake Tester (Crate & Barrel) How cute is this little gingerbread man cake tester?! Such a fun little tool for Christmas baking!
3. Personalized KitchenAid Mixer Ornament (Ornament Shop) This is my absolute favorite item in this gift guide! I love Christmas ornaments that have a meaning or hold a memory, and this would make for such a great gift for anyone who loves to bake.
4. Measuring Spoons (Anthropologie) I love how unique Anthropologie's kitchen products always are, and these flowery measuring spoons are so sweet! They are probably not the most practical gift since they are easily breakable, but they are adorable!
5. Copper Measuring Cups (Sur La Table) Copper is so timeless and elegant, it would look beautiful in any kitchen.
6. Striped Mixing Bowl (Crate & Barrel) I am in love with this mixing bowl! It screams Christmas to me because it reminds me of candy canes, but it could be used all year, of course!
7. Paper Bundt Cake Pans (Williams-Sonoma) These would make a great gift for anyone who loves to give edible gifts! Or get these for yourself, and use them to bake bundt cakes to give as gifts! Products like this are great to have on hand for when you need a quick little gift for someone - bake them a bundt cake in a pretty little pan like this!
8. Spoon Rest (West Elm) This is a perfect everyday essential gift. I love the label on it!
9. White Marble Rolling Pin with Stand (Crate & Barrel) This is another one of my favorite items on the list. Marble rolling pins can be very pricey, and at $19.95, this is a steal!
10. Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts (Amazon) I wanted to include a cookbook, and this one is one of my favorites, I have made so many recipes from it, and they have always turned out great! (You can read more about my favorite cookbooks here.)
11. Set of Heart Shaped Cookie Cutters (Macy's) As someone who owns way too many cookie cutters, this is one of my favorite little sets! (Perfect for my Linzer Heart Cookies!)
12. Bow Dishtowel (Anthropologie) I love bows, so whenever I see anything that has bows on it, my eyes are immediately drawn to it! This would be a great gift for any girly baker!


13. 1 Year Magazine Subscription (Martha Stewart Living) Can you tell I'm a Martha Stewart fan? I love this magazine and have subscribed to it for years, but a subscription to any other one would make for a great gift, and one that the recipient continues to receive throughout the year!
14. Cookbook Stand (Target) "Devoted to Dessert", need I say more? Adorable.
15. Mini Holiday Spatulas (Paper Source) I love holiday themed kitchen goodies, and these would be cute to give with a homemade cookie mix!
16. Gingerbread Man Spatula (Crate & Barrel) Yup, another spatula. This is just too cute not to include!
17. Panettone Christmas Ornament (Sur La Table) I can't get over how adorable this ornament is! The whole Christmas ornament collection at Sur La Table is just beautiful!
18. Personalized "From the Kitchen of..." Stickers (Zazzle) This is a great gift for anyone who loves to bake for other people!
19. Holiday Nutcracker Oven Mitt (Williams-Sonoma) Because you can never have enough oven mitts.
20. Ornament Cookie Cutter Set (Copper Gifts) For anyone who loves decorating cookies, this is a fun set of Christmas themed cookie cutters!
21. Porcelain Batter Bowl (Pier 1 Imports) Simple & Classic. Perfect for pancake batter!
22. Family Recipe Book Binder (Zazzle) Customized gifts are always extra special & thoughtful.
23. "Eat More Cake" Cupcake Liners (Kitchen Kapers) Wise words.
24. Recipe Card Post Cards (Zazzle) A fun gift for a baker who loves pretty stationery too!
25. Donuts Wrapping Paper (Paper Source) And to complete the baking lover's gift... wrap it in some baking themed wrapping paper, of course!

I hope these ideas have given you some inspiration for your Christmas shopping! What are some of your favorite baking tools or accessories you have bought or received? Is there anything special that you have on your baking Christmas Wishlist this year? I would love to know!
Happy Shopping, Everyone!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

BURLAP GIFT BAGS

Hi Everybody! I have another super simple and easy giftwrap idea to share with you today! I made these burlap treat bags last fall, and this is a Christmas version! The burlap bags themselves are so easy to make and don't require any sewing at all (I love hot glue! It makes life so much easier, and there isn't much you can't use it on!) and you can embellish them with whatever festive decorations you can find. Here's how you can make these...

BURLAP GIFT BAGS

YOU WILL NEED
Burlap
Scissors & Ruler
Hot Glue Gun
Ribbon
Jingle Bells
Faux greenery

DIRECTIONS
First, cut your burlap into rectangles. You can make them as big as you like, I usually cut them to about 5x9 inches big. Place two pieces of burlap on top of each other and using hot glue, attach them to each other by glueing the two long sides and one of the short sides. Then, turn the bag inside out. Fill it with candy or whatever little gifts you are using it for, then tie some ribbon around the top, looping a jingle bell through the ribbon before tying it. Add in some small pieces of greenery (you can attach it to the ribbon with more hot glue) and you are done!

For other giftwrap ideas, check these out!

Left: Lace Giftwrap Bows (tutorial HERE) Middle: Christmas Cookie Packaging Tips & Ideas (tutorial HERE) Right: Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)

Left: DIY Christmas Sweater Gift Bags (tutorial HERE) Middle: Handmade Paper Bows (tutorial HERE) Right: Glittered Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)

Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Monday, November 17, 2014

CHRISTMAS COOKIE PACKAGING TIPS & IDEAS

Hello Everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend! This new week has started off cold, gray and rainy here, and I am sort of secretly hoping that it turns into snow soon! And since the holiday baking season is quickly approaching, I wanted to share a couple tips and ideas for cookie packaging with you today! I love giving (and receiving!!) homemade cookies as little gifts around the holidays, and I always think it's more fun to receive a gift that's nicely packaged and personalized! All you need is some ribbon, cellophane bags or glass jars, seasonal embellishments, pretty gift tags and some delicious homemade cookies, of course! It really doesn't take much to make a sweet little cookie package to give away!


Here are some of my favorite ways to package holiday cookies...

To make homemade cookies look a little extra special, instead of packaging them in a plain tupperware container, use a nice glass jar. Fill it with cookies, then tie some red satin ribbon around the top, add an oversized bow, and finish the packaging off with a gift tag sticker on the face of the jar! I got all my gift tags from  Tiny Prints where you can customize and personalize them! (And you could also easily use any Tiny Prints Christmas cards that you've already received, for any of these packaging ideas.) I love using red satin ribbon at Christmas time, because it instantly adds a luxurious and festive touch!

This is a great way to quickly package party favors - place a couple of cookies in a cellophane bag, tie with a twisty tie to make sure the cookies stay soft,  and add some pretty ribbon and a gift tag! It couldn't be easier, but still looks a little extra special!

For a simple and elegant look, buy a set of solid colored tins (gold is perfect for Christmas), line them with parchment paper, then fill with cookies! It's hardly any work, and looks so pretty! Plus the recipient gets to keep the tin, too!

This may just be my favorite cookie gift, because I think it's the most useful around the holidays! Make your cookie dough as usual, form it into balls, then freeze them (you can follow my full instructions for this HERE). To package them for a gift, simply put them on a decorative or disposable plate, place that in a ziplock bag, tie some ribbon around it and attach instructions for baking! This is a great little gift especially around the holidays when people have friends and family stop by their house, because they'll be able to pull these out of their freezer and have freshly baked cookies in a matter of minutes without any work!

What are your favorite ways to package Christmas cookies? And, maybe more importantly, what are your favorite cookies to bake every year? I'm already planning my Christmas cookie list, it's one of my favorite things about the holidays! Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you all have a great rest of your week!
Happy Baking, Everyone!
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Monday, November 10, 2014

MY FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

Hi Everyone! I wanted to do something a little different, and share some of my favorite cookbooks with you today! I love cookbooks. In fact, every time I go to a bookstore, the cookbook isle is the first one I go to. And I don't think there's been a single Christmas or birthday in the past couple of years for which I haven't received a cookbook! I have collected lots of cookbooks over the years, some new, some old, and wanted to tell you a little bit about my most favorite ones! As I started writing this post and sharing a little bit about each cookbook with you, I realized that there was a story and lots of memories tied to every one of them, which really is my favorite thing about cooking; the memories it brings back. Fun childhood memories of baking with my grandparents or learning how to cook as a newlywed; it's funny how it only takes a few ingredients to turn back time and be transported to those precious memories!


Here are just a few of my favorites...

 Cookbook: Nigella Lawson's Nigella Kitchen. Favorite Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Muffins
So, there is a little bit of a back story to the reason for why this cookbook is one of my favorites! A couple of years ago, my friend and I got VIP tickets to go to the Martha Stewart show in New York City, and Nigella Lawson happened to be the guest on the show that day! We got to sit in the front row, and it was such a fun experience! At the end of the show, we all got Nigella's cookbook and that was when I was really introduced to her cooking. I think that Nigella is really the queen of flavor. Every single one of her recipes that I have tried has always been excellent, and the flavors have always been so complex. And also, she looked even more beautiful in person than she does on TV if that's even possible! As for my favorite recipe from the cookbook, I have SO many, and cook several of them pretty frequently, but one of my favorites have to be these Apple Cinnamon Muffins. So simple, but so delicious, like most of Nigella's recipes!

Cookbook: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. Favorite Recipe: Black Forest Cake.
This is one of the best basic baking books I've read! I got this cookbook for Christmas one year, and I remember I dragged it to Europe with me for the holidays because I was so excited to read through it, and it's a pretty heavy book! But that's how good it is! It has a great selection of classic baking recipes, ranging from cookies and cakes to breads and muffins. It's a great guide for beginning bakers, but also just for anyone who loves to bake! I have made so many recipes from this book, but one of my all time favorites is this Black Forest Cake. I made it for Valentine's Day one year, and it disappeared pretty quickly!

Cookbook: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. Favorite Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie.
As you can tell by all the sticky note page markers in this book, it is clearly a favorite! I got this cookbook the first year I was married, and have been working my way through it ever since! I have always been a big Martha Stewart fan and have several of her cookbooks, but this is one of my favorites simply because it has pretty much every basic recipe you would ever want and need (and more)! My absolute favorite recipe from this book is the Chicken Pot Pie. I remember making it one fall in our teeny-tiny little kitchen in Haddonfield, New Jersey, where I had pretty much zero counter space and very little kitchen equipment, but being an excited newlywed making dinner for my husband, it was the best thing in the world! Every time I make this recipe, it takes me back to that little kitchen and brings back so many wonderful (and delicious!) memories, which really, I think is the best thing about cooking!

Cookbook: The Pioneer Woman Cookbook: Food from my Frontier. Favorite Recipe: Beef Stew.
This cookbook is also pretty high up on my list! I just love the Pioneer Woman! And her kitchen. And her ranch. And her lodge. And her cooking, especially! My husband got me this cookbook for my birthday one year, and I kept trying to ask him what presents he got me for my birthday (as I do every year, because I am oh so impatient). He wouldn't tell me (as he never does), but he said he got me a present at Bass Pro Shops (for those of you who don't know this store, which is his favorite store by the way, it's a store with all things outdoorsy, and not one where I ever shop!) I didn't know whether he was kidding or whether I should be afraid, but when I unwrapped that particular present, it was this Pioneer Woman cookbook! I have so many favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, but her Beef Stew is definitely one of my favorites!

Cookbook: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Favorite Recipe: Chocolate Mousse. 
This cookbook is a classic of course, and one that belongs in every cookbook collector's collection! These recipes are not "30 minute meals" by any means, and most require several hours, extensive preparation and pretty much every single dish, tool and piece of equipment in your kitchen! But oh my goodness, is it worth it! If you love to cook and enjoy spending time in your kitchen, then this is the book for you! One of my favorites is Julia's chocolate mousse. She said it was sinful, and it most definitely is. It is one of the richest, most indulgent desserts I've ever made!

These two books are not cookbooks, but if you enjoy food writing, you may enjoy these two! The one of the left is Julia Child's My Life in France, which recounts her life and stories in France. It's a very easy read, with so many stories and cooking memories. The book on the right is one that I just picked up recently, The New Yorker's Secret Ingredients, which is a collection of short stories from famous writers and chefs, all based around food. I'm still reading this book, but there have been several great stories in it so far!

And of course, some of my most loved recipes are ones that can't be found in any cookbook, but have been passed down and tweaked from generation to generation. I've loved sharing some of my favorite family recipes with you here (like THESE Linzer Cookies that I make every Christmas, or THESE Traditional Czech Gingerbread Cookies) and always look forward to recreating those old familiar recipes in my kitchen! If you want to read a little more about some old family recipes, I wrote a whole post about them HERE ("From My Grandmother's Recipe Files...")

What are your favorite cookbooks? And favorite recipes? I would love to hear what your favorites are! Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you all have a great rest of your week!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MONOGRAM GIFT TAGS

Hey Everyone! I have another fun DIY giftwrap idea to share with you today! With Christmas less than two months away (50 days to be precise. Yes, I'm counting!), it's never too early to get started on some holiday crafting! Wrapping gifts has actually always been one of my favorite things about Christmas; my mom used to let me wrap all our family's Christmas presents ever since I knew how to do it, because I loved doing it so much! Gifts are my love language, in case you were wondering! I always think it's fun making gifts look a little extra special and personal with some creative giftwrap ideas, and I wanted to share these easy Monogram Gift Tags with you today! These aren't necessarily for Christmas only, you could use them for any occasion, but I thought the black & gold would be cute and festive for the holidays!

MONOGRAM GIFT TAGS

YOU WILL NEED
Black card stock
Ruler, pencil & scissors
Gold glitter
Fine tip glue pen
Gold twine


DIRECTIONS
First, cut out all your gift tags out of thick card stock. Make a hole at the top using a hole punch, then loop your piece of gold twine through it. Using a pencil, draw on the monogram (you can either do it freehand or use a stencil), then fill it in using your fine tip glue pen. Sprinkle the area with glitter, let it sit for a couple seconds, then shake off all the excess glitter!




For other fun giftwrap ideas, check these out!
Left: DIY Lace Giftwrap Bow (tutorial HERE) Middle: Handmade Paper Bow Tutorial (HERE) Right: Glittered Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)
Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Monday, November 3, 2014

DIY LACE GIFTWRAP BOWS

Hi Everyone! Happy November! I hope you all had a good weekend. It feels like everything went from fall to winter here pretty much overnight this weekend; we went from sunny fall weather to freezing in a thick sweatshirt on Halloween, and from stores displaying all things fall to turning into Santa's workshop! I guess the holidays really are just around the corner now. And since that means lots of gift wrapping in the next couple of weeks (because I am determined to get my Christmas shopping done early this year and not have to go through the shopping madness that starts mid-December!) I thought I would share a fun little gift wrapping DIY with you today! I love anything with lace, and thought these bows would look so sweet with some kraft wrapping paper. They are not necessarily Christmas themed, so you could use these all year round! Here is how you can make them...

DIY LACE GIFTWRAP BOWS

YOU WILL NEED
Lace or lace ribbon (if using ribbon, make sure it's at least 3/4 inch wide)
Ruler & Scissors
Hot Glue Gun


DIRECTIONS
To make these lace bows, you can follow my tutorial I posted for making handmade paper bows (find it HERE), the only difference is that you either need to cut strips of lace (keeping them the same length and width as the paper strips in the tutorial) or if you are using lace ribbon (which you want to be at least 3/4 inch wide), cut three 10 inch pieces, three 9 inch pieces, and 1 4.5 inch piece, just like with the paper strips. You also need to be more careful when using the hot glue gun because of all the gaps in the lace, make sure you don't burn your fingers!


For my full Handmade Paper Bow Tutorial, click HERE!

Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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