Here’s my little guy’s first attempt at cookie decorating… Obviously he has a real future in pastry arts, wouldn’t you agree?
(my personal favorite is the bottom right one – where my husband attempted to take away his frosting. It did NOT go well…)
The holiday season is upon us! Carols, snow, lights, trees, baking and SHOPPING are all on my “to-do” list this year – and baking is the one I am most looking forward to – measuring and mixing, feeling the kitchen fill up with the scent of cookies and cakes while Christmas carols play softly in the background – that’s my favorite Christmas tradition.
If you know someone like me who LOVES baking, but you aren’t sure what to get them this year, then check out my list of Holiday Gift Ideas For The Baker In Your Life:
A Really Good Spatula: A thick bladed, wooden handled spatula is a must have for every baker out there – as scraping the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated is an essential part of most any recipe. I love my spatula so much I even wrote about it last year, and a set like this would be a great addition to any Baker’s utensil collection!
Cookie Cutters: Ok, so most bakers probably have at least some cookie cutters already, but if you could find a unique one for them that fits their personality, it’s a great (and usually pretty cheap!) gift option. For example, I love Disney, and dogs, and reading – so any type of cookie cutter that is related to those themes would be something I would LOVE to receive. Or you can give a set of mini cookie cutters – like these adorable animals, or some seasonally appropriate Mini Christmas cookie cutters
An Apron: Ok, so this one may seem kind of lame – but aprons have come a long way – they are no longer just some frilly thing that housewives wear – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you’re crafty, you can sew your baker a custom one like my mother in law did for me – it is Minnie Mouse themed on one side, and apple patterned on the other – two of my very favorite things! If you aren’t great with a sewing machine, then check out the TONS of amazing options on Etsy – all you have to do is search for “apron” and up come a whole bunch of results, and the great thing about Etsy is that most shops will work with you to customize your gift to your specifications – so initials, words, material – it’s all able to be chosen by you to create a super amazing gift for your baker
Tools For Their Littlest Bakers: Most bakers enjoy sharing their love of baking with others – I know I do – and I can’t WAIT until my son is old enough to help me roll out dough and cut the shapes out with cookie cutters. If the baker on your shopping list has kids or nieces or nephews, you might want to consider getting them something they can use with them – like a Kid-friendly cupcake decorating set, or a copy of this Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook
Something Pretty and Shiny: My husband got me this necklace a few years ago for Christmas – and I just love it. You can find necklaces, bracelets, earring and more on etsy – I’ve seen ones with little whisk and spoon charms too – perfect for a baker!
Baking-Themed Gift Basket: You can put a ton of different things in here – a roll of parchment paper, kitchen towels, cute measuring spoons, an apron, a cookbook, nice wooden spoons or spatulas – and you can package it all up nicely in a big mixing bowl or measuring cup. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just some things you think your baker might like, put together with love and care. Wal-Mart currently has a new line of Pioneer Woman cookware & dinnerware – it’s decorative, with plenty of different pieces to pick from, and best of all – it won’t break the bank, and would make a perfect addition to your gift basket!
A Kitchen Aid Mixer: This is the ultimate kitchen tool that every baker lusts after – I have a vintage one from the 50’s that still works great, so not only is it cool and old school, but I didn’t have to pay for it (as it was my grandmother’s) – so that makes me extra happy – as they are NOT cheap – the smallest models start at around $200, and go up from there. One that is big enough to handle a double or triple batch of cookies will run around $500 or more. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it – and it’s a gift your baker will absolutely LOVE. Bonus – they come in all kinds of colors now, so you can even get one that will match their kitchen!
A Recipe Book Stand/Tablet Stand: Give one of these so your baker can keep their recipes nearby and easy to read. You could go for an easy to clean, budget friendly plastic version, or you could go with a slightly more decorative version. If your baker likes to get most of their recipes electronically, then check out this awesome kitchen mount/stand for Ipad/tablets – perfect for viewing recipes or watching how to videos on different cooking and baking techniques
Hopefully these ideas will help you check at least one person off your shopping list – and if you’re a baker like me, then you may want to consider asking Santa for some of these items – they will make your Christmas even more Merry and Bright!
The leaves are turning, the weather is crisp and cool, the Christmas ads have started – all of this means fall is in full swing! Which I couldn’t be more thrilled about, as fall is my favorite season, partly because it brings with it the start of holiday time, and BAKING time! Pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cookies, cakes – I LOVE this time of year most of all
This year though – things are a little bit busy and I haven’t yet had much time to devote to finding and trying new recipes…and here’s the main reason why…
My son is now 1, and he is walking and running like crazy! He is fast, and into EVERYTHING – it’s can be tiring trying to keep up with him, but it’s also super fun to watch him learn and figure things out
My main kitchen adventures as of late have all involved trying to sneak pureed vegetables into things he will eat – and I have actually had some big successes on that front! But now that he’s 1, he’s eating a lot more non-baby foods, which I am hoping means I can try out some new recipes on him – ones that we can all enjoy
This most recent endeavor was inspired by these SUPER ripe bananas. I was just going to make banana bread (which is always delicious!), but I wanted to try something new and different – and was scrolling through some recipes when I came upon this one for Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal. Not only would it allow me to use up my bananas, but my son LOVES oatmeal (as do I!) so it seemed that it would be a win all around!
Ok, so I have assembled my ingredients – ALL of which I had on hand (score!) – so that means it’s BAKING time
• 2 cups old-fashioned oats
• ⅓ cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups milk
• 1 cup banana, mashed
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• ½ cup walnuts, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray an 8″ square baking dish or pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Add the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, banana, egg, and vanilla. Slowly pour in the melted butter, whisking constantly.
3. Add the oat mixture into the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer to the greased baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, put the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top of the oatmeal and cool slightly before serving.
The oats – before and after baking
The only change I made was that I omitted the nuts – I didn’t have any at home, plus I wasn’t sure how my son would be able to handle them (after all, he only has 4 teeth!). I do LOVE toasted nuts, and I can see how they would really be a great addition to this – but it certainly didn’t NEED them – it was delicious on its own
Also, I found it actually took closer to 40 minutes to cook – the recipe said 25 but mine was still pretty jiggly after just the 25 minutes. After 40 it was nice and set and perfectly browned on top
Beautiful, aren’t they? The blog I got the recipe from says it “tastes like a slice of warm banana bread” – which is pretty true, it was nice and moist and almost bread pudding like in consistency, but with the oats adding a nice crunchy texture to it
It got the seal of approval from my husband (and the dog!)
And my littlest mouth loved it too
Needless to say, there wasn’t much left after we attacked it, and I will for sure be making this again
I will be the first to admit that I am a total weirdo. Why, you might ask? Well, there are many reasons, but one of the big ones is that I don’t really care for summer. It just doesn’t do it for me (I’m much more of a fall girl!), and while I may not love this season, I know that most people do, and I have recently started to discover my own reasons to love these hot summer months – one of them being that I get to watch my 9 month old son experience the great outdoors, and another being that I get to try some awesome no bake desserts (because who wants to crank up the oven on a hot summer’s day?) – most of which usually involve peanut butter and chocolate (one of the world’s best combinations!)
These No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars are a triple win – not only are they easy and don’t require an oven, but they are super tasty, and best of all – you probably have most (if not all) of the ingredients already on hand! So let’s get baking! Whoops – I mean microwaving!
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups rice crispy cereal
Line an 9×13 pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray
In a large mixing bowl (or by hand with a spoon), beat together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, 1 cup peanut butter, and salt. Spread into the pan. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to firm up
In a microwave safe bowl melt together the chocolate chips and remaining 1 cup peanut butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the cereal. Spread on top of the chilled peanut butter layer
Refrigerate until chocolate is firm before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge
I love the textures in this – the chocolate peanut butter layer has those crunchy pieces of cereal in it, and the peanut butter/graham cracker layer is nice and gritty (which sounds weird but it is actually perfect ha!)
They are pretty rich, as desserts go, so I recommend cutting into at least 24 or 32 pieces – as one is probably enough for anyone!
I will definitely make these again, and hopefully on your next hot day you’ll whip these up and enjoy them as much as we did!
Another fun variation on this recipe are these Chocolate peanut butter pretzel ritz bars – where there’s a nice crunch and saltiness thanks to the pretzels and crackers, or if you’re in the mood for that chocolate peanut butter combo but not crazy about bars, then maybe you should try this No Bake peanut butter pie/ No matter which you choose, you’re getting to beat the heat and enjoy a delicious treat too – and if that’s not a win then I don’t know what is!
Yesterday was Father’s Day – so Happy (slightly belated!) Father’s Day to all the dads out there – and a very special Happy FIRST Father’s Day to my husband – he’s an amazing guy and it’s been so great to watch him be a dad to our little guy. I knew I wanted to do something special for him to show him how much I love him and appreciate all that he does, and when I came across this recipe for Chocolate stout s’mores icebox pie – I knew it would be perfect. After all, what man wouldn’t love for someone to make them a pie – and not just ANY pie, but one with chocolate and BEER in it?
• 9 graham cracker sheets
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 4 tbs butter, melted
• 1/3 cup chocolate stout
• 2 tbs unsweetened Cocoa
• 1 1/3 cups (8.5wt oz) bittersweet chocolate chips
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• ¼ cup powdered sugar
• pinch salt
• 3 cups mini marshmallows
Add the graham crackers and brown sugar to a food processor, process until just fine crumbs remain. While the mixer is running, add the melted butter until well combined.
Press into the bottom of a spring form pan in an even layer until well compacted.
Add the chocolate stout, cocoa, and chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl, microwave on high until melted, stirring frequently, about 90 seconds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer add the vanilla, heavy cream, powdered sugar and salt. Beat on high until medium peaks form. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the chocolate until combined. Stir until well combined.
Pour over the crust in an even layer.
Top with marshmallows, freeze until set, about 2 hours.
Before serving toast the marshmallows with a culinary torch until blacked to desired degree.
One thing I love about this is that it is a no-bake dessert (I REALLY am a fan of no bake pie in the summer!) – so no heating up the house or sweating over the oven!
I followed the recipe exactly – the only thing I didn’t do was blacken the marshmallows – as I do not have a culinary torch, and didn’t want to risk melting the whole thing under the broiler. Therefore, the marshmallows didn’t add much taste at all to the pie, since they weren’t toasted like in a real s’more – but that’s really ok, because the chocolate stout layer is good enough to stand on its own – it was rich and creamy, and didn’t taste too much like beer (which I appreciated!) – but the hint of it was still there
My dad and husband both loved it – so I think I made a good choice for their Father’s Day dessert!
To all the dads out there who would do anything for their families (like my dad and husband!) – I salute you, and hope you had a great day, and that you’re celebrated not just on this holiday, but all year long. Cheers!